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Degas and His Model (ekphrasis)

Degas and His Model (ekphrasis)

Previous price: $15.00 Current price: $12.95
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
David Zwirner Books
The MIT Press Bookstore
1 on hand, as of Feb 21 10:26am
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There are many myths about the artist Edgar Degas—from Degas the misanthrope to Degas the deviant, to Degas the obsessive. But there is no single text that better stokes the fire than Degas and His Model, a short memoir published by Alice Michel, who purportedly modeled for Degas.

Never before translated into English, the text’s original publication in Mercure de France in 1919, shortly after the artist’s death, has been treated as an important account of the master sculptor at work. We know that Alice was writing under a pseudonym, but who the real person behind this account was remains a mystery—to this day nothing is known about her. Yet, the descriptions seem too accurate to be ignored, the anecdotes too spot-on to discount; even the dialogue captures the artist’s tone and mannerisms. 

What is found in these pages is at times a woman’s flirtatious recollection of a bizarre “artistic type” and at others a moving attempt to connect with a great, often tragic man. The descriptions are limpid, unburdened; the dialogue is lively and intimate, not unlike reading the very best kind of gossip, with world-historical significance. Here in these dusty studios, Degas is alive, running hands over clay, complaining about his eyes, denigrating the other artists around him, and whispering salaciously to his model. And during his mood swings, we see reflected the model’s innocence and confusion, her pain at being misunderstood and finally rejected. It is an intimate portrait of a moment in a great artist’s life, a sort of Bildungsroman in which his model (whoever she may be) does not emerge unscathed.

About the Author

Alice Michel is the pseudonym used by the unknown author of Degas and His Model.

Jeff Nagy is a translator, critic, and historian of technology based in Palo Alto, California. His research focuses on networks pre- and post-Internet and the development of digital labor.

Praise for Degas and His Model (ekphrasis)

Degas and His Model, for a short book (just 58 pages), is rich in incident and secondary characters…”
— Thomas Micchelli

“[Degas and His Model] is a curious text to evaluate, the more so when rendered into American English, with Degas as ‘cranky and demanding old buzzard’, an ‘old nutjob’, and so on.”
— Julian Barnes

“amusing, memorable books”
— Jonathon Sturgeon

“The books in the series seem designed to slip into your back pocket - slim, spartan, and compact, sporting uniform covers consisting solely of typeface in black or white, with a matching horizontal bar across the top, against a solid color.”
— Thomas Micchelli