The Song of the Dog speaks of Degas’s particular interest in the varied spectacles of modern life and his efforts to depict contemporary entertainment. In Paris, the evolution of cafés and brasseries to cafés-concerts, where performers provided song and dance entertainments, began as early as the 1840s, but their popularity grew mainly during the 1860s and by the end of the decade there were at least four thousand cafés in Paris.
By 1870 Thérésa (born Eugénie Emma Valadon, 1837–1913) was the most renowned café-concert performer. She had no musical training but was already a sensation in Paris by the age of thirty. Working her way from the stage at the Eldorado to the Alcazar, Thérésa attracted a vast following that transcended class. Degas watched her perform at the Alcazar and her imposing personality and “vulgar” style are the subject of this lithograph. Seen from the closest possible vantage point, she dominates her audience from the height of the stage. Degas showed Thérésa in the act of singing a song about a dog, with her arms held in a paw-like gesture. The lithograph is one of the group of studies Degas made of this singer performing; he drew her several times. A fully developed gouache and pastel over monotype served as the source for the lithograph.
portraits; women; music; night; narrative
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