CounterCartographies Reading – Degas’s Portraits at the Exch.

As part of our CounterCartographies initiative to understand visual culture in relation to the politics of space, our monthly reading group hopes to create conversations to consider ways in which the built environment can be understood both historically and theoretically. We welcome people from all backgrounds, language groups and walks of life to join in our discussion.

In this installment, we will be reading Marnin Young’s (Yeshiva University) ’Capital in the Nineteenth Century: Edgar Degas’s Portraits at the Stock Exchange’.

A few decades after Karl Marx wrote ‘Das Capital’, the very concept of capital was something that fascinated artists whose lives, experiences, institutions and raison d’être were actively being transformed by new opportunities and imaginative horizons brought about by large-scale changes to the modes and means of production resulting from industrialisation, revolution and colonialism.

How is something as abstract as ‘capital’ visualised in the 19th century Paris? This month’s text offers a close reading of Impressionist turned realist Edgar Degas’s ‘Portraits at the Stock Exchange’ ca 1878-79, and examines what are the impulses of capital as it remade urban space and social life. More importantly, Young argues that these uncertain times could only be understood through the development of a new visual vocabulary that sought to capture the contested economic forces alongside their different conceptions of time or temporalities.

It is highly recommended that you read the essay before joining the discussion. To read text, please visit:

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