He lived and worked in New Orleans for only one year, but the legacy of French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas is still very much felt here.
And on Wednesday, to mark the 100th anniversary of his death and to tie into the upcoming tricentennial of New Orleans, the Degas House on Esplanade Avenue unveiled a new permanent tribute.
It is a statue of his most popular sculpture, known as "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years." The model was a young student of the Paris Opera ballet school.
“We want her to be a permanent fixture that really marks the moment for us, that celebrates 100 years since his death and all the life’s work that he contributed in general and especially the work he did in New Orleans,” said Degas House founder and owner David Villarrubia.
The statue is based on what was Degas’ only publicly-shown sculpture during his lifetime. The nearly life-size wax figure, with real hair and dressed in a cloth tutu, was exhibited in 1881. Initially, critics were not kind, with some criticizing the artist for what they called the odd appearance of the young dancer.
Born in 1834, Degas created other sculpture in his lifetime but they remained unseen by the public until after his death. In all, Degas produced 18 paintings while he lived in New Orleans, which was his mother's birthplace and home to many of his relatives. Among the most well-known of his paintings is A Cotton Office in New Orleans. Others depicted ballet dancers, nude figures and even family members.
Several of Degas’ great grand-nieces are tour guides at the Degas House, which is where he lived in 1872 and 1873 while visiting the city. It is the only house museum in the world dedicated to his life and legacy.
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