French painters of the 18th and 19th centuries were on the whole a lively and spontaneous group; and as a result exhibits of their works, such as that now in the Fogg Museum, are never dull. The Fogg display of oils, watercolors, and drawings is but a sample, and is by no means all-inclusive, yet a general idea of the art of the period may be formed from it.
Best represented artist is Degas. In his portrait drawing of Manet, and in the "Lady Reclining in a Chair," he reveals his skill as a draftsman. With a few long, easy, flowing lines he brings his sketches to life, for it is life and movement that he is most interested in. That is why he drew so constantly the dancers of the Paris Opera. The one painting of a "Ballet Dancer" on display illustrates his characteristic treatment of this subject. The figure, which is light and graceful, wears a light blue dress with spots here and there of sheer color. It is ironic indeed that he envelopes the whole in a romantic, pure atmosphere, for the truth was the dancers as a whole lived a very immoral life and were often almost vicious in their vices. Another typical Degas painting is the race track scene "They're Off." Here everything is dark and stormy looking except for a spotlight of bright red and yellow color thrown upon the three jockeys.
One of the most interesting of all the drawings is "The Bathers" by Picasso. Whenever Picasso's name is mentioned it is immediately associated with Cubism, and the common notion about Cubists is that they work in their peculiar manner because they are unable to do otherwise. In this drawing, however, there is not a trace of Cubism. Quite to the contrary, it shows a draftsman who, in technical skill, is almost equal to the great artists of the Italian Renaissance. Picasso's use of line has form and solidarity which can hardly be excelled, and his handling of many different bodily positions is expert in the highest degree.