Addendum: Degas and the Nude

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Clarification of Degas’s
Visual Abilities

The following paragraphs and related notes have been inserted into the review of Degas and the Nude.  They appear after the explanation for the omission of Degas’s visual problems from the discussion of his later work:

Ambrose Vollard thought the same and insisted in his Degas: An Intimate Portrait that the artist “…used to pretend to be more blind than he was in order to not recognize people he wanted to avoid…Immediately after such a refusal, Degas took out his watch and said, without the slightest hesitation, ‘It’s a quarter past two.’”9

The statements of both the curator and Vollard “…reflect the simplistic view that vision is all about acuity and little more.”10 But such a dichotomy is “…not at all inconsistent [with] serious central vision loss.”11 “The fine details of a person’s face…would not have been clear to a person affected by central retinal disease…However, a watch face with large, dark hands [on] a light-colored background would have been easily seen…It’s image spread out broadly on the retina.”12