« J’ai mieux aimé les tableaux que la vie »

Jean Planque

Edgar Degas

(1834 – 1917)


Planque admired Degas’s keen sense of observation, the savage side of his off-center framing, his unconventional way of isolating motifs and figures in order to increase their expressivity. He believed that Degas’ themes and the humanity they convey, his abrupt treatment and harsh lighting of the female body, prefigure Picasso and point the way to a certain style of abstraction. The collector was fond of saying that painting must be devoid of amiability: charm isn’t beauty. Not that there isn’t room for harmony in the field of visual expression, of course, but harmony must never be sought simply for its own sake. In Planque’s aesthetic conception, what is more, a certain air of gaucheness may even add authenticity to the work. This deep-seated conviction is exemplified to perfection by this pastel by Degas, which the collector purchased in the early 1960s. A rather unprepossessing image, especially from the compositional standpoint, with its pronounced distortions, abrupt foreshortenings, and laborious integration of the figures in the landscape, this pair of bathers, emerging straight from the artist’s studio, looks somewhat less than natural.

Two Bathers, c. 1895


Pastel on three strips of paper mounted on cardboard

58 x 77 cm (22.8 x 30.3 in)