History And Context

Melancholy, a portrait of an unidentified woman, demonstrates Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas’s tremendous talent for effectively portraying mood in his sitters. The source of the painting’s title is unknown , and it has been stated that the artist, in his general preference for depicting “formal calm” over “interior life” would have chosen a neutral title for the work, for example Portrait of a Young Woman or Woman Leaning on a Chair. At this early point in his career, however, when he was closely examining human nature through portraiture, Degas may have intended melancholic emotion to be a dominant theme. In it, Degas produced a compact, balanced image that evokes quiet intimacy and solemnity, as well as suffering.

Duncan Phillips often hung Melancholy in his smaller galleries with other French painters of similarly intimate themes – for example Bonnard’s Woman with a Dog and Vuillard’s Woman Sweeping which perpetuate the contemplative spirit of Melancholy.

More Works by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas In the Collection

La Répétition au foyer de la danse
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
ca. 1870-ca. 1872
Dancers at the Barre
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
ca. 1900
Seated Violin Player
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Women Combing Their Hair
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
ca. 1878-ca. 1876
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
late 1860s
After the Bath
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
ca. 1895