A Cotton Office in New Orleans, 1873 by Edgar Degas


A Cotton Office in New Orleans, 1873


Edgar Degas

Ref GM3156
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 20" x 16" (50 x 40 cm)
Price Add to basket
A Cotton Office in New Orleans is an 1873 oil painting by Edgar Degas. In it, Degas depicts his uncle Michael Musson’s cotton brokerage business, which later went bankrupt as it was swamped by the post-war growth of the much larger Cotton Exchange. In the painting, Musson is seen examining raw cotton for its quality, while Degas’ brother René reads the Daily Picayune. Another brother, Achille, rests against a window wall on the left while several others go about their business. A Cotton Office in New Orleans was the first painting by Degas to be purchased by a museum, and the first by an Impressionist. Degas’ sale of the piece marked a turning point in his career as he moved from being a struggling, unrecognised artist to a recognised and financially stable artist. Degas travelled from Europe to New Orleans in the autumn of 1872 with his brother, René, to visit his mother’s brother, Michael Musson. After the American Civil War, René had joined his uncle’s cotton business in New Orleans. Degas was to return to Europe in January 1873, but when his return trip was delayed he was asked by his relatives to paint their portraits, and decided to show them as a group at work in the family office. Degas crafted his work with the intent of selling it to a British textile manufacturer. But a drop in stock prices worldwide and declines in the cotton and art markets ended his hopes for that specific sale. Degas then exhibited this piece in the second Impressionist show in Paris in 1876, and finally sold the painting in 1878 to the newly founded Musée des Beaux-Arts.