Impressions of an impressionist


When people hear the term “impressionist art” many may think of the vivid lily ponds of Claude Monet or the still lives of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but the drawings and painting of Edgar Degas were just as crucial to the movement.

The Foothills Art Center, 809 Fifteenth St. in Golden, is hosting Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist: Works on Paper by the Artist and His Circle, which showcases some of Degas’ sketches, photos and other works.

The exhibit will be on display through June 30, Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are honored to provide an opportunity for visitors to experience Degas, one of the fathers of Impressionism, with these beautiful and thought-provoking works,” said Executive Director, Reilly Sanborn. “We anticipate we will once again have a record-breaking number of visitors, from across the state and beyond, in our galleries.”

All the works on display — including works by Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, Gustav Moreau and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, who were all members of the Impressionist movement — come from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, a private collector from San Francisco.

Johnson was a museum curator for 32 years, and started collecting works by Degas during that period.

“This collection is really comes from three things — desire, circumstance and luck,” he said. “The desire is that I became such a fan of Degas as a student.”

The circumstance that allowed Johnson to build his collection is the fact that Degas sold only works that he had to, and held on to as many of his own works as possible. When he died in 1917 his executors had to hold four estate sales to sell all his works.

What this means for an art collector like Johnson is that while his famous works are out of the normal person’s price range, many of these less known works and early versions can be purchased for a more reasonable price.

“I collected against the market — so many people were after his ballerina works, but I focused on sketches, portraits and figure studies,” he said.

The luck that helped Johnson was the connections he’d made in the art dealer world that allowed him to purchase many of these works.

Johnson said that people coming to the exhibit to see Degas’ most famous works will not find them, but will instead get a glimpse into who he was as a personality and an individual. Through the drawings, prints and photographs — including his early sketches of works on display at the Louvre — visitors will really get a sense of his evolution and style.

Johnson said that sharing the works he’s collected is part of his duty as a collector — he sees himself as a custodian of the work.

“I think I’m doing right by Degas by having his works out and appreciated by the public,” he said. “It’s springtime in the Rockies, and Edgar Degas is in Golden - you can’t make that any better.”

For more information on the exhibit, call 303-279-3922 or visit


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