The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans is an 1873 oil painting and tells the experience Edgar Degas had in 1872 when he traveled to New Orleans along with his brother to visit his uncle. His travel back home to France was delayed, and he began painting. He planned to sell this painting to a British merchant, but the cotton market was going through a crisis at the moment, and he didn’t manage to finish the sale. He eventually brought the piece back home. The artwork was then exhibited in the Impressionist Exhibition of Paris, in 1976 - even though it presents more characteristics from the naturalist movement and not so many Impressionist influences as his other paintings did.
The painting portrays the daily exchanges in a colonial society, which was very quaint and exotic to Degas. He did other small portrait works while staying in New Orleans, but this was his only major work. His uncle, Michael Musson, is painted on the back of the picture, with a top hat and analyzing the quality of the cotton. His brother Rene reads the paper sitting on a chair in the middle of the scene. It is a detailed interior scene with well-placed characters, and the whole scene has a very natural atmosphere, almost as if we were watching a scene from a movie. Each character is caught up in their own activities of the daily colonial society life.
The whole scene is painted in warm tones, and blue and orange prevail. The green walls divide two rooms. It’s possible to observe a couple of gentlemen through the internal windows, framed white, but most of the men are located in the left room, inside where the viewer is placed. Most gentlemen wear black tailcoats and hats, but one of them is wearing a flashy mustard coat. A gentleman on the far right of the picture is going through some documents, and he wears a black vest and white shirt. He wears glasses and has a grey hair and mustache. Along with the furniture, there is a trash can filled with correspondence on the foreground of the composition. The left of the composition is framed by the frame of the room, painted in white, like the frames of the windows and doors. It is interesting to see the differences in the architectonic style between this artwork and artworks portraying French buildings like The Dance Class II.
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