OCA Printmaking 1: Research


Monoprints of Edgar Degas


Degas was a member of the Impressionist group of painters who rejected the formality of the Salon and the painting establishment of the day, preferring instead to create work in the open air, with the emphasis on representing light as it is experienced in the open air. The handling of paint was often loose, with obvious brush-strokes. Frequently, complementary colours were used to depict areas of shadow. This approach sought to represent light as it is actually experienced in the landscape. Unlike may of his fellow-impressionists, Degas often drew indoor subjects such as bathers, ballet dancers and ordinary people socialising.

His compositions mirrored his interest in Japanese prints and the ever-developing discipline of photography, with elongated portrait views, and subjects often cut off at the edge of the picture plane as in photography. An example of this elongation is in the painting Mary Cassat in the paintings Gallery of the Louvre.
(Harris, Constance:Portraiture in Prints, Macfarland & company inc, Publisher. Jefferson,North Carolina and London).

However, he is also known for his pastels of racehorses. A literature search of the Bridgeman Library identified using the search terms Edgar Degas and then Monoprint identified a number of works in which a painting has been completed over a monotype. There were very few pure monotypes represented on the site.
The monoprint I have selected to review is of a landscape. A link to the site is set out below. The work is entitled Moonrise, c.1880 (monotype on laid paper) by Degas, Edgar (1834-1917) It is a monotype laid on paper on laid paper. It is small in scale, measuring 15.4×24.6 cms.

Moonrise, c.1880 (monotype on laid paper), Degas, Edgar (1834-1917) / Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA / Bridgeman Images



The format of the monotype is landscape, with the horizon dividing the painting roughly into thirds, with the upper third representing the sky.

The brushwork is very loose, creating a windswept feel to the work. On close inspection the print appears quite textured, with short brush strokes placed vertically depicting the dune grasses, and long, sweeping strokes used to paint the sand in the foreground.
The monotype seems to have been prepared using a paintbrush and wiping cloth.
The brushstrokes are an important feature of the print, adding atmosphere to the scene. The artist may have wiped the surface of the work to remove paint to allow for distinction between the light foreground and the beach grasses in the mid ground.
The moon is placed off centre to the left of the picture plane. It appears to have been created by the removal of paint from this area.


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