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World-renowned Degas scholar and curator Richard Kendall will speak on “Painting without God: Degas, Darwin, and Impressionism” 4:10 p.m. today in Williams Center for the Arts room 108.

Free and open to the public, the talk is the 2004-05 Carol P. Dorian ’79 Memorial Lecture in Art History. If high attendance makes it necessary, the event will be moved across the street to Oechsle Hall room 224.

According to Kendall, Impressionism is the world’s favorite art movement, but its popularity has come at a price.

“Today, the paintings of Degas and his colleagues are most frequently seen on birthday cards and in gift shops, and in advertisements for décor and continental vacations,” he says. “Impressionism has been so successfully reduced to entertainment that we have forgotten its tempestuous beginnings and the radical nature of these extraordinary works of art.

“This lecture will return to the original circumstances of France in the 1860s and 1870s, examining some of the key ideas that motivated Degas and his fellow Impressionists in their turbulent age. Issues never before considered in this context – such as atheism and the ideas of Darwin (whom Degas read) – pervaded the Impressionists’ thinking, joining with their interests in science and in new theories of vision to transform the nature of painting and sculpture. Seen in this way, Degas’ art and that of the Impressionists takes on a remarkably fresh and powerful significance for own age, allowing us to rediscover them in all their originality.”

Kendall serves as consultant curator in 19th century art at Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts and also is an independent art historian and exhibition curator. He has written extensively on Impressionism, including books on Cézanne, Monet, and Van Gogh, and contributed essays and articles to many journals and catalogues, editing the collections Dealing with Degas in 1992 and Cézanne and Poussin in 1993. His involvement in contemporary art is reflected in a number of reviews and essays: in the book Drawn to Painting: Leon Kossoff’s drawings and paintings after Nicolas Poussin, published in 2000; and in recent catalogues on the work of Euan Uglow and Howard Hodgkin.

Kendall trained first as a painter at Central School of Art and Design in London and then completed the M.A. course in art history at Courtauld Institute of Art. As senior lecturer in art history at Manchester Metropolitan University, he taught courses in 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture and developed a research interest in the work of Edgar Degas. His first book on the artist was published in 1987, after which he established himself as a freelance scholar, lecturer, and exhibition curator.

Exhibitions organized by Kendall include Degas: Images of Women at Tate Gallery, Liverpool, in 1989; Degas Landscapes, at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1993; and Degas and the Little Dancer at Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, and Baltimore Museum of Art, 1998-99. His exhibition Degas: Beyond Impressionism, held at the National Gallery, London, and Art Institute of Chicago in 1996-97, was chosen as Exhibition of the Year by Apollo and his catalogue was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Art Writing.

Now a U.S. resident, Kendall is compiling the catalogue of works by Degas in Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, and is a joint author of the collection catalogue of Clark Art Institute. He curated, with Jill DeVonyar, the exhibition Degas and the Dance, held at Detroit Institute of Arts and Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2002-2003, and co-authored the book of the same name.

Some previous Dorian lectures:

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