Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
At the Café (Au café) (c.1875–1877)
"There is a little painting by Edgar Degas at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge which, from time to time, I like to look at. It is an oil of two young women sitting at a café table. While the woman on the left sits pensively with her head slightly to one side looking down at the table, the woman on the right, and half out of frame, is leaning over as though about to say something. What is most powerful to me about the painting (…), is what might be described as its aural dimension. Once you have seen it and studied it, surrounded in this room by the pastoral and bucolic relics of Impressionism, Degas’s canvas, modestly situated in a far corner, could almost be about to speak. It is as though there is a présence in the room…the lost communicant of some forgotten séance conducted long ago, a girl whose voice you cannot yet hear, whilst knowing that she is longing to be heard, like a desire which rejoices in its imminent satisfaction."