Art: The Hard Way

As he grew older, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, once a dandy of dandies, became a surly misanthrope. He turned his favorite Delacroix to the wall so that others could not enjoy it. Invited out to dinner, he insisted that there be no dogs around, and no flowers on the table, lest other guests indulge in sentimentalities. This was the Degas whom the French poet and philosopher Paul Valéry came to know, an old man raging at his enemies and riding alone on the tops of buses.

Last week an English translation of Valéry's essay on Degas appeared in U.S. bookstores (Degas Dance...

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