Five must-see works at the Ashmolean Museum’s Degas to Picasso exhibition

Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France is at the Ashmolean Museum from 10 February until 7 May 2017. Get 50% off admission with a National Art Pass.


Jean Metzinger, The Yellow Feather, 1912

  • © ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

This painting was first exhibited at the Salon of the Section d’Or of October 1912, which introduced the Cubist artists to the general public. One of a small series of images of elegant women in which accessories form an important part, it uses multiple viewpoints – an essential element of the new painting style.


Albert Gleizes, Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, 1914

  • © ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

In this picture (one of a number of preparatory studies for a portrait now in the Modern Art Museum in New York) Albert Gleizes – one of the early proponents of Cubism – reduces the composer’s figure to a kite shape, just recognisable by the black of his jacket and the buttons on his shirt. Typical to the Cubist style, Gleizes wishes to say something of the subject he represents so has added a sheet of paper inscribed with a few lines of musical notation to the picture surface.


Pablo Picasso, Study for Three Musicians, also known as The White Coffee Table (Le Guéridon Blanc), 1920

  • © ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

The flat areas of bright colour and fragmented shapes, juxtaposed like paper cut-outs, seen in this piece derive from Synthetic Cubism, but are clearer and simpler than in Picasso’s earlier Cubist compositions. It has been identified as a still life as it includes a guitar and a jug on a table, but is also thought to have possibly been a tribute to Picasso’s friend Guillaume Apollinaire, who had died in 1918.


Edgar Degas, Woman after her Bath, 1900-05

From 1887 onwards, Edgar Degas made a series of sketches of a woman drying her foot while seated on the edge of a tub. Here the tub is not drawn, making the crouching pose appear somewhat awkward. The artist used a charcoal stick of a relatively hard quality, applying it with rough, searching strokes along the back and round the head, and with lighter, vertical lines in the modelling of the figure. The resulting work appears almost solid, resembling a small sculpture.


Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Doctor Gachet (The Man with the Pipe), 1890

In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to consult Paul Gachet – a doctor specialising in mental illness – who had been recommended to him by Camille Pissarro. Gachet, an amateur artist himself, befriended Van Gogh and encouraged him to try copperplate etching. Van Gogh was delighted with the results and sent impressions to Paul Gauguin and his brother Theo, who responded: ‘It is a true painter’s etching. No refinement in the technique, but a drawing made on metal.’ Van Gogh’s death a few weeks later left means this is the only etching he ever created.

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