17 April 2015

Travel tales: Degas House, New Orleans

It’s just over a year ago since I was in New Orleans. Gosh time has flown! I want to blog more about my trip – let’s hope I can remember the details! I saw so much.

I went on a guided bus tour in New Orleans – it changed my perspective of the city. I loved doing these short tours as it gave me ideas for what I wanted to see later.

As the tour bus was going up The Esplanade in New Orleans, the guide pointed out French artist Edgar Degas' house, which is now art gallery for the public to visit.

Edgar Degas House, New Orleans, sun streaming

Plaque in front of Edgar Degas House, New Orleans

I was so excited, because studied Degas at school and also saw a few of his works at the MET in NYC in 2012.

Ballerina sculpture by Edgar Degas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

And so after the bus tour, I walked – many, many blocks to the Degas House. It was hot and so by the time I arrived, I was redder than usual and in need of a cold drink. The staff – Degas’ relatives – were very welcoming. And I learnt so much during my two hours there.

Degas House is located at 2306 The Esplanade - on the corner of North Tonti Street New Orleans. There are two houses on this block - they make up a gallery and bed and breakfast. The two houses were once one large mansion but in the 1920s, the house was cut in two.
Front of Degas House, New Orleans

Degas House, New Orleans

Edgar Degas had Creole heritage. He went to New Orleans to live with his uncle in the house at The Esplanade in 1872. He was provided with a bedroom which doubled as his studio.

At the time New Orleans was in a depression, and perhaps Degas was too. He had an eye condition. He would paint his cousins, depicting looking introspectively - their eyes looking at nothing in particular. This was thought to be a symbol of his own fate for his sight.

New Orleans has brilliant, bright light. To protect his eyesight from the light, Degas painted all of his New Orleans portraits at the house.

Painting by Edgar Degas - 'Children on a doorstep'  at Degas House, New Orleans

Description of Painting by Edgar Degas - 'Children on a doorstep'  at Degas House, New Orleans

His five months in New Orleans was where he found himself – an awakening of sorts. He returned to Paris in 1873 to create the paintings we are familiar with.

Today, Degas House is a guest house - adorned with Degas' paintings and decorated to reflect the period in which Degas stayed in the house. It is so beautiful – gorgeous 19th century furniture, low ceilings and artwork everywhere. There is a sunny courtyard – a little eerie after seeing a painting he did.

Hallway, paintings in Degas House, New Orleans

Table setting, Degas House, New Orleans

Sitting room, Degas House, New Orleans

Sink in Degas House, New Orleans

Guest room at Degas House, New Orleans

His studio is not a guest room. It has his wardrobe and bed. A palette with dried paint sits on a desk. Chairs are arranged to show the way he would have studied his subjects while painting them. The room is the brightest lit of both houses.

Edgar Degas' bedroom - Degas House, New Orleans

Edgar Degas' bedroom - Degas House, New Orleans

Dried paint on a palette - Edgar Degas' bedroom - Degas House, New Orleans

Edgar Degas' bedroom - Degas House, New Orleans

From memory, the tour cost $15 plus tax and tip (I had a student card). There was no one else there when I went, so I explored the house uninterrupted.

If you’re in New Orleans, Degas House is well worth a visit. It'd make a lovely, romantic stay.

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