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Place de la Concorde, empty space

Artist: Edgar Degas

Title: “Place de la Concorde” (1876)

Characteristics: Oil on Canvas. (78.6 cm x 117.5 mm)

Keywords: alienation, realism, urban, existential

The work “Place de la Concorde” or “Viscount Lepic and his Daughters Crossing the Place de la Concorde”, is an oil painting by Edgar Degas. The work depicts Ludovic-napoleon Lepic (a patron of the arts at the time) with his daughters and his with an unknown man on the left. The painting is almost unconventional for its time as it seems to leave a big proportion of “empty” space in the center of the painting. The figures look away from one another, and the “main” figure, that is Ludovic-napoleon Lepic, looks outside of the painting to the right. The whole image seems to be influenced by photographic “snapshots” that capture the flow of moments, as well as influenced by the style of Realism and Impressionism.

The image, could be considered as a reflection of the changing world of the late 19th century. As it happens with most of Degas’ works, Edgar Degas points out the crisis of the modern world that is gradually dominated by machines, speed, and the isolated individuals of the emerging mega-cities of Europe. The empty space in the center, seems to suggest a lack of coordination, or cohesion in the composition, or a lack of central subject; a meaning within the painting. This meaninglessness, an existential crisis is a modern phenomenon that characterizes the individuals living in the modern, industrialized cities. Artists and poets of the era, such as Baudelaire also describe this phenomenon in their works.

The above-mentioned concepts are made clearer, when we realize that indeed, the individuals’ looks never meet. It is as if, each of them lives in his or her own world, even the dog; everyone is “lost in translation”. As such the painting points out a feeling of isolation, incomprehension, emptiness and consequently, an existential crisis, a crisis that prevails in modern industrialized cities since the 19th century.

 

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Edgar Degas, Place de la Concorde, 1876, Oil on Canvas. (78.6 cm x 117.5 mm).

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