Cotton Merchants in New Orleans (1873) by Edgar Degas

Cotton Merchants in New Orleans - Edgar Degas - 1873

Artwork Information

TitleCotton Merchants in New Orleans
ArtistEdgar Degas
Dimensions58.7 x 71.8 cm
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationFogg Museum (Harvard Art Museums), Cambridge, MA, US

About Cotton Merchants in New Orleans

The artwork “Cotton Merchants in New Orleans” was painted by Edgar Degas in 1873. It is an oil on linen painting, measuring 58.7 by 71.8 centimeters, and belongs to the Impressionism movement. As a genre painting, it captures a snapshot of everyday life, specifically the commercial activity associated with cotton merchants. This piece is currently housed at the Fogg Museum, which is part of the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.

The artwork masterfully depicts two men engaged in the inspection and possibly the negotiation of cotton. A figure in the foreground, wearing a black hat and vest, leans over a massive pile of cotton, thoroughly examining it with both hands. He is the central focus, shown with his back turned towards the viewer, giving the sense that we are witnessing an intimate moment of his work. To the right, another man in a suit and straw hat stands behind him, partially obscured, adding to the scene’s depth. The sharp division of space and the contrast between the light cotton and the darker attire of the figures showcase Degas’s skill in playing with light and composition. The background contains rough brushstrokes, indicative of the Impressionist style, with a glimpse of a framed picture on the wall that adds an additional layer to the scene, providing a hint of the outside world that borders this interior setting. The artwork captures the essence of a moment in commercial life with great skill, balancing intricate detail and Impressionist abstraction.

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