Edgar Degas and Ellen Andrée

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, on view October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018.

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Ellen Andrée, 1876

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Ellen Andrée (Portrait d’Ellen Andrée), 1876. Monotype in black and brown ink on ivory paper, 8 1/2 × 6 1/4 in. The Art Institute of Chicago

Ellen Andrée, born Hélène André around 1855, started acting in 1879. She was a favorite of Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, using her talents as an actress to play many roles as a model. A lively young woman, she joined the artists’ circle at the Café Nouvelle Athenes. In the early 1880s she gave up modeling entirely and in 1887 she joined a naturalist theater, the Teâtre-Libre. Her career took her to the United States, Argentina, and Russia. She married Henri Julien Dumont, a painter who specialized in flowers. Degas made several portraits of her and she modeled as the dissolute woman in his famous painting In a Café (L’Absinthe) (Musée d’Orsay, 1975-76), where she stares vacantly at the glass on the table in front of her.

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