Edgar Degas’s painting, “The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans,” offers a glimpse into the moment when his uncle Michel Musson’s cotton brokerage business went bankrupt during an economic crash. Painted in 1873, this oil on canvas piece portrays the interior of Musson’s cotton factoring firm, Musson, Prestidge and Company. Several of Degas’s relatives are depicted engaged in a range of activities.
While Degas traveled to America with his brother Rene in 1872 to visit his mother’s Louisiana relatives, he had more in mind than just family time. His work depicted a snapshot of life around him and often scrutinized poverty and labor issues at that time. In this painting, if he had portrayed the office and its employees as seen every day, African-American porters carrying cotton samples to and from storage would have been seen.
“The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans” is significant because it sheds light on one particular episode that occurred during the infancy stages of The New Orleans Cotton Exchange. The exchange was established in 1871 as a centralized forum for the trade of cotton and operated until closing down its doors permanently in 1964 after striving through business disruptions such as The Great Depression and World War II but succumbing to changes related to infrastructure development outside downtown New Orlean’s former financial commercial center only known now for tourism attractions.
Overall “The Cotton Exchange In New Orleans” can be appreciated both as representation artwork portraying key historical moments happening shortly before international paintings style revolutions such as impressionism emerged decades later or as documentation depicting socio-economic themes not exclusive but specifically typical for American deep south US cities like Louisiana at that moment of history where exposure was limited pre-telecommunications boost early XX century advances .