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dc.contributor.authorKnowles, Marika Takanishi
dc.identifier.citationKnowles , M T 2021 , ' Paperwork and fragmentation in Degas's "Bureau Pictures" ' , Word & Image , vol. In press , pp. 74-87 .
dc.identifier.otherPURE: 266361707
dc.identifier.otherPURE UUID: b1c1eced-fb69-4ad6-be97-206d98b3c2b7
dc.description.abstractThis article identifies a group of paintings by Edgar Degas as “bureau pictures,” representations of workplaces, creative or commercial, in which piles of paper are spread on desks. Through his depiction of paper, as well as his affective casting of the way in which human figures relate to their piles of paper, Degas explores the intertwined gestures of creative and bureaucratic labor. Paper’s tendency to offer a medium for fragmentation was represented in contemporary literature by Théophile Gautier and Émile Zola. In these texts and in Degas’s images, papery fragmentation takes two forms: either as a creative scattering symptomatic of an anti-classical aesthetic informed by Romanticism, or as an instrument of bureaucracy and administration, as in Zola’s representation of the stock market and the department store. Ultimately, in the bureau pictures, Degas does not take a definitive stance, but rather dwells on the way in which the two approaches intermingle, such that it is impossible to distinguish clearly between an artist’s or an author’s work and that of a clerk, at least at the level of the gestures and the handling of pieces of paper. In a move typical of Modernist aesthetics, however, paint and compositional choices strike back in order to submerge paper in the user’s coin (corner), as a “true fragment” impressed with the mark of artistic temperament.
dc.relation.ispartofWord & Imageen
dc.rightsCopyright © 2021 Publisher / the Author. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at
dc.titlePaperwork and fragmentation in Degas's "Bureau Pictures"en
dc.typeJournal articleen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews. School of Art Historyen
dc.description.statusPeer revieweden

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