The Singer in Green

Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)

ca. 1884
Pastel on light blue laid paper
23 3/4 x 18 1/4 in. (60.3 x 46.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    A sale catalogue of 1898 evocatively described the performer pictured in this pastel: "Skinny and with the graceful moves of a little monkey, she has just sung her ribald verses and, with a gesture that conceals an entreaty behind her smile, is inviting applause." With her small eyes, high cheeks, and low brow, the model recalls Marie von Goethem, the working-class girl who posed for Degas’s sculpture The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer. The singer’s dress, rendered in vivid yellow, turquoise, and orange, reflects the artist’s experimentation with saturated hues and color contrasts in the mid-1880s.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): Degas

  • Provenance

    Monsieur Laurent, Paris (until 1898; his anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 8, 1898, no. 4, for Fr 8,505 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1898–1906; stock no. 4874; sent on consignment to Paul Cassirer, Berlin, October 18–November 18, 1901; sold on February 3, 1906 for Fr 15,000 to Hébrard]; A. A. Hébrard, Paris (from 1906); Louis-Alexandre Berthier, prince de Wagram, Paris (until 1908; sold on May 15, 1908 for Fr 18,861 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1908–9; stock no. 8675; sold on April 17, 1909 for Fr 20,000 to Ryabushinsky]; Mikhail Pavlovich Ryabushinsky, Moscow (from 1909–probably 1918/19); State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (probably 1918/19–1925); Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow (1925–33; cat., 1928, p. 37, no. 128; sold on May 9, 1933 through Knoedler to Clark); Stephen C. Clark, New York (1933–d. 1960)

  • Exhibition History

    Dresden. Kunst Salon Ernst Arnold. "Frühjahrs-Ausstellung," March 1899, no. 7 (as "Sängerin") [see Tinterow 1988].

    Vienna. Secession. "Entwicklung des Impressionismus in Malerei u. Plastik," January–February 1903, no. 52 (as "Im Café-concert," no lender given).

    London. Grafton Galleries. "Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet...," January–February 1905, no. 69 (as "The Music Hall Singer in Green [Pastel]," no lender given).

    New York. Century Club. "French Masterpieces of the Nineteenth Century," January 11–February 10, 1936, no. 16 (lent by Stephen C. Clark, Esq.).

    Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Museum of Art. "Degas, 1834–1917," November 7–December 7, 1936, no. 44 (as "The Café Singer, La chanteuse verte," lent anonymously).

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Masterpieces by Degas," March 22–April 10, 1937, no. 3 (as "Chanteuse de café concert").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting from David to Toulouse-Lautrec," February 6–March 26, 1941, no. 39.

    New York. Paul Rosenberg. "Great French Masters of the Nineteenth Century: Corot to Van Gogh," May 4–29, 1942, no. 3.

    New York. Century Association. "Paintings from the Stephen C. Clark Collection," June 6–September 28, 1946, unnum. checklist (as "Chanteuse Verte").

    New York. M. Knoedler & Co.. "A Collectors Taste: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark," January 12–30, 1954, no. 8.

    New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Paintings from Private Collections," May 31–September 5, 1955, no. 31 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–September 1, 1958, no. 41.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 7–September 7, 1959, no. 29.

    New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni," May 19–June 26, 1960, no. 188.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 6–September 4, 1960, no. 31.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 46 (of works on paper).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 263.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings," May 22–August 19, 2007, no. 79.

  • References

    Georges Grappe. Edgar Degas. Berlin, [1908], p. 38.

    Louis Hourticq. "E. Degas." Art et Décoration 32 (July–December 1912), ill. p. 104.

    P.-A Lemoisne. Degas. Paris, 1912, pp. 101–2, pl. XLIII, dates it 1884.

    Paul Lafond. Degas. 1, Paris, 1918, ill. p. 7.

    Paul Lafond. Degas. 2, Paris, 1919, p. 38.

    Henri Hertz. Degas. Paris, 1920, p. 102, dates it 1884.

    Iakov Tugendkhol'd. Edgar Degas. Moscow, 1922, ill. p. 9.

    Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, p. 153, pl. 66, dates it 1884.

    Ambroise Vollard. Degas (1834–1917). Paris, 1924, ill. opp. p. 84.

    [Boris Nikolaevich] Ternovietz. "Le Musée d'Art Moderne de Moscou." L'Amour de l'art 6 (December 1925), p. 464, ill., as from the Riabouschinsky collection.

    Musée d'art moderne de Moscou: Catalogue illustré. Moscow, 1928, p. 37, no. 128, states that it came to the museum from the Tretyakov Gallery in 1925, and lists M. P. Riabouschinsky as a former owner.

    Louis Réau. Catalogue de l'art français dans les musées russes. Paris, 1929, p. 102, no. 771.

    Arthur Symons. From Toulouse-Lautrec to Rodin, with some Personal Impressions. London, 1929, p. 118.

    Harry Adsit Bull. "Modern French Paintings in Moscow." International Studio 97 (October 1930), p. 25, ill. p. 23.

    John Becker. "The Museum of Modern Western Painting in Moscow—Part I." Creative Art 10 (March 1932), p. 199, ill. p. 196.

    Georges Rivière. Mr. Degas: Bourgeois de Paris. Paris, 1935, ill. p. 137, calls it "Chanteuse de café-concert" and dates it 1876.

    Alfred M. Frankfurter. "French Masterpieces, 1850–1900: An Important Loan Exhibition of Painting Currently at the Century Club." Art News 34 (February 1, 1936), p. 6.

    Augustus Vincent Tack. Exhibition of French Masterpieces of the Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Century Club. New York, 1936, unpaginated, no. 16, ill.

    Camille Mauclair. Degas. London, [1937], pl. 106.

    Agnes Mongan. "Degas as Seen in American Collections." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), pp. 296, 301.

    James W. Lane. "Thirty-three Masterpieces in a Modern Collection: Mr. Stephen C. Clark's Paintings by American and European Masters." Art News Annual 37 (February 25, 1939), p. 132, ill. p. 139.

    John Rewald. "Depressionist Days of the Impressionists." Art News 43 (February 1–14, 1945), p. 30 [reprinted in "Studies in Impressionism," New York, 1985, p. 207].

    Hans Huth. "Impressionism Comes to America." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (April 1946), p. 239 n. 22, suggests erroneously that this work was included in the American Art Association's Impressionist exhibition in New York in 1886 [see Ref. Tinterow 1988, p. 437 n. 5].

    P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 3, pp. 440–41, no. 772, ill., calls it "La Chanteuse verte (Chanteuse de Café-Concert)" and dates it 1884; suggests comparison to a drawing in the Nepveu de Gas collection (3rd Degas sale, no. 393).

    Randolph Schwabe. Degas: The Draughtsman. London, 1948, unpaginated, pl. 37.

    Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, [1949], p. 42, mentions it among Degas pictures that influenced Toulouse-Lautrec.

    C. A. "L'Art moderne français dans les collections des musées étrangers—I. Musée d'Art Moderne Occidental à Moscou." Cahiers d'art 25, no. 2 (1950), p. 339, no. 9.

    François Fosca. Degas. Geneva, 1954, ill. p. 71 (color), as "Café Singer".

    "Ninety-first Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1960–1961." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (October 1961), ill. p. 43.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX–XX Centuries." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3, New York, 1967, pp. 82–83, ill., characterize this singer's youth and innocence as different from the other café singers depicted by Degas between 1875 and 1885; mention two related drawings (3rd Degas sale, no. 393; private collection, Switzerland).

    Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill., dates it about 1884.

    Alfred Werner. Degas Pastels. New York, 1968, p. 54, colorpl. 18.

    Fiorella Minervino in L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 115, no. 616, ill., dates it about 1884.

    Bernard Dunstan. Painting Methods of the Impressionists. New York, 1976, pp. 92–93, ill. (color).

    Theodore Reff. Degas, The Artist's Mind. [New York], 1976, pp. 67, 69, 310 n. 87, fig. 41 (color), dates it about 1885 on the erroneous assumption that the work was first exhibited in 1886 [see Ref. Huth 1946]; observes that Degas is indebted to Delacroix for the palette of this picture and others of this period.

    Theodore Reff. "Degas: A Master among Masters." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (Spring 1977), ill. on cover (color), dates it about 1885.

    Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 12, colorpl. 27, dates it about 1885.

    Michael Shapiro. "Degas and the Siamese Twins of the Café-Concert. The Ambassadeurs and the Alcazar d'Eté." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 95 (April 1980), pp. 159–60, cites a photograph on a "portrait-carte" of a popular café-concert singer, Thérésa (Emma Valadon, 1837–1913), as the source for the unusual gesture and costume in this picture.

    Robert C. Williams. Russian Art and American Money, 1900–1940. Cambridge, Mass., 1980, p. 34, quotes an April 21, 1933 cable from Charles R. Henschel, president of Knoedler, to his Soviet government contact, the Matthiesen Gallery in Berlin, stating that one of his clients is interested in buying this picture, along with works by Cézanne (MMA 61.101.2), Van Gogh, and Renoir (61.101.14); erroneously adds that the sale did not take place.

    Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, fig. 89 (color), dates it 1884.

    Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, p. 363.

    Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 11, 78–79, 82, 251, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it about 1885.

    Gary Tinterow et al. Capolavori impressionisti dei musei americani. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Milan, 1987, p. 44.

    Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, ill. p. 114 (color), as "La Chanteuse de Café-Concert" also known as "La Chanteuse Verte".

    Horst Keller. Edgar Degas. Munich, 1988, p. 60, colorpl. 50.

    Michael Pantazzi in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 355, calls the preparatory drawing for this picture (3rd Degas sale, no. 393) a study of Marie van Goethem; finds the same pose in a figure in the background of "The Green Dancer" (about 1880; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; L572).

    Gary Tinterow in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 435–37, no. 263, ill. (color), dates it about 1884; observes the singer's resemblance to Marie van Goethem, the model for the sculpture "The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer" and the girl in "The Milliner" (MMA 22.27.3); recognizes the gesture of the hand as the trademark of the café-concert singer Thérésa, "one of Degas's favorite performers," noting that it is not a specific portrait, but a "synthesis of an imaginary but quintessential singer" [see also Ref. Shapiro 1980].

    Albert Kostenevich in Morozov and Shchukin—The Russian Collectors: Monet to Picasso. Exh. cat., Museum Folkwang Essen. Cologne, 1993, pp. 122, 129 n. 166.

    Theodore Reff in The Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, pp. 156, 174 n. 89, fig. 207 (color), dates it 1884–85 [see Ref. Reff 1976]; remarks that the use of turquoise, vermilion, and yellow in this pastel is a measure of Degas's response to the complementary pairs of vibrant hues he saw at the Delacroix retrospective held at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1885.

    Ann Dumas in Degas e gli italiani a Parigi. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2003, p. 39, fig. 18 (color), dates it about 1885.

    Jennifer R. Gross in Edgar Degas: Defining the Modernist Edge. Exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, 2003, pp. 51–52, comments that Degas may have made this picture in response to the photograph of the singer Thérésa, but that he also worked from memories of the theater and cabaret.

    Sarah Lees in The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, pp. 167, 315, 322, no. 79, fig. 269.

    Kathleen M. Morris in The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, p. 115.

    Gilbert T. Vincent and Sarah Lees in The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, pp. 156, 199 n. 154, describes Clark's purchase of this picture when it was deaccessioned from the Museum of Modern Western Art in Moscow.

  • Notes

    The pose and costume in this pastel probably derive from that of a popular café-concert singer, Thérésa (Emma Valadon, 1837–1913) [see Refs. Shapiro 1980 and Tinterow 1988]. A related drawing is in a private collection (3rd Degas sale, no. 393).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History