Camille Pissarro once described the monotypes made by Edgar Degas in the 1870s as 'a bit slovenly and askew'. Even so, he would also perhaps have known that Degas was held in such high regard by his contemporaries in Paris that other customers would stand as he entered the café he used. Unlike any of the artists featured in the previous exhibition notice, Degas was a great modern master and his monotypes found him pushing the boundaries of modern graphic art about as far as it would go, hence Pissarro's comment.
Monotype essentially involves drawing in ink on a metal plate and passing that through a press. As a result only one image is normally possible. Easy enough to do, in the hands of Degas, the result were often astonishing. He has already made very striking etchings like the self-portrait of 1857, above and and utterly magnificent drawings like the one below and I include these because there is clearly a relationship between all the different graphic art he made.
The show also includes other graphic work but as I haven't seen it, I can only give readers a hint at what they might see if they are fortunate enough to be in New York this spring and summer. Although he stands very much in the grand tradition of European art, his monotypes sometimes broke with tradition and added colour even if the tone is actually sepia. But that is hardly the point because it is the overall tone that counts.
Thanks also to Darrel Karl who has seen the show and has added a very good account of Degas' working methods in the Comments section.