Study for the Self Portrait (1855) by Edgar Degas

Study for the Self Portrait - Edgar Degas - 1855

Artwork Information

TitleStudy for the Self Portrait
ArtistEdgar Degas
Dimensions29.5 x 21.5 cm
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationRhode Island School of Design Museum (RISD Museum), Providence, RI, US

About Study for the Self Portrait

“Study for the Self Portrait” is a work by Edgar Degas, executed in sanguine in 1855. This piece, belonging to the self-portrait genre, represents the early work of an artist who would later be associated with the Impressionist movement, although this portrait predates that period. The artwork, with dimensions of 29.5 x 21.5 cm, resides at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (RISD Museum) in Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

The artwork reveals the head and partial shoulders of the artist, captured in profile. The strokes of sanguine, a red-brown chalk-like medium, lend a warmth and immediacy to Degas’ visage, characterized by a sense of introspection and contemplation. There is a depth in the artist’s gaze, directed outward from the plane of the paper. The soft rendering of the features, along with the dexterous handling of light and shadow, showcases Degas’ skill in capturing human expression and form, even at this early stage of his career. The nuanced shading and delicate linework suggest three-dimensionality, emphasizing the sculptural qualities of facial anatomy. Elements of the composition remain loosely defined, indicative of a study or preliminary work rather than a fully realized portrait. This characteristic underscores the exploratory and intimate nature of the piece, giving us insight into Degas’ artistic process.

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