Edgar Degas’s Interior gives us a glimpse behind closed doors to the struggles of sex, class, and the strangers in our homes

painting of a bedroom scene with a man and woman
painting of a bedroom scene with a man and woman
Interior by Edgar Degas, 1868–69 — The Philadelphia Museum of Art [view license]

Like the death throes of a supernova, France of 1868 was tearing itself apart. A disastrous war with Prussia lay on the horizon, Marxist ideals spurred the silent, exploited working-class to revolt, and the country could no longer conceal its weakness from the confederation of enemies the rest of Europe had become. Napoleon III’s authoritarianism and incompetence were bringing the Second Empire to a chaotic finish. In this spiraling society, Edgar Degas painted Interior — an enigmatic depiction of isolation, domestic dysfunction, and sexual and economic tension.

However, its inspiration was not the nadir of a society but its height. At the apex of its power, the Second Empire catapulted toward modernity and with it arose the incongruities of culture at once financially prosperous and morally bankrupt. Yet, Interior is more than a reaction. It is a reflection of an age when art and philosophy were grasping toward the radical idea of autonomy and the alienation that arises when only the select few are granted it. By way of a work that straddles Realism and Impressionism, Degas probed through the keyhole to bourgeoisie society and rendered, in soft brushwork, uncomfortable truth about sex, social class, and the strangers in our homes. …

We have a rare chance to not repeat the mistakes for which a family, a city and 50 million lives paid the price.

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My grandmother had a clear recollection of what a body wrapped in cloth looked like. The specific way bedlinen and burlap folded into hollows and draped over curves. How, despite layers of concealment, the form remained undeniably human even when the smell suggested otherwise. She remembered how the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would reverently dress the dead as though they were shrouding the Redeemer himself. With a dearth of coffins, for many this would be their only allowance of dignity in the grave. She saw this ritual again and again as she accompanied the Sisters on their rounds through the red brick rowhomes of West Philadelphia. …

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If Only They Could All Be Like Warren Graham

Tucked between the strip malls and McMansions of Chester County, Pennsylvania is a little slice of rural life. Here you will find Warren Graham. The Graham family has been living and working on this land for generations. Graham was raised on a small, nearby farm before it was acquired by the state and incorporated into Ridley Creek Park. It was there that his father, Warren Graham Sr., became the best-known beekeeper in Pennsylvania.

“He retired young and he started keeping bees,” says Graham Jr. “He got very interested, as people do, and became the biggest beekeeper in Pennsylvania. …


Bridget Mary Boyle

Dabbler. Non-expert. Philadelphian. IG: bridget.mary.boyle

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