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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, At the Café de Châteaudun

Key facts
Full title At the Café de Châteaudun
Artist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Artist dates 1834 - 1917
Date made about 1869-71
Medium and support Pencil and oil (essence) on paper, mounted on canvas
Dimensions 23.7 × 19 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mr and Mrs Charles Wilmers, 1991
Inventory number NG6536
Location On loan: Discovering Degas: Collecting in the time of William Burrell, The Burrell Collection (Glasgow City Council), Glasgow, UK
Collection Main Collection
At the Café de Châteaudun
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

This is an early example of Degas’s cafe or cafe-concert scenes. Cafes were an important part of Parisian social life, and also provided artists with a rich source of visual spectacle, characters and ‘types’.

Two men seated at a corner table examine a newspaper. The figure facing us points to an article, which he reads through a small magnifying glass. His wrist is clasped by his older, monocle-wearing companion. The exact nature of their interaction is unclear, but Degas seems particularly interested in their gestures.

This small picture is essentially a drawing on cream-coloured wove paper (mounted on canvas), which has been coloured in with essence. This is oil paint from which most of the oil has been removed with blotting paper, diluted with turpentine to give the effect of watercolour. Pencil marks under the paint indicate that Degas sketched the scene first and that he made changes to the poses.

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