The Degas connection
The great French
impressionist painter, Edgar Degas, visited New Orleans in 1872, a time
when the city, still recovering from the ravages of the Civil War, was
in the throes of Reconstruction and under Federal control. Degas
productivity as a painter had stalled, but something about the war-torn
and divided city gave him new inspiration and elicited some of his finest
The primary reason for Degas trip was to spend a few months with
the American branch of his family. The painters great grandfather,
Vincent Rillieux, had built a large house on Royal Street. His daughter
Maria was Degas maternal grandmother.
A well-kept secret of the Rillieux clan was the liaison of one of Vincents
sons, also named Vincent, with Constance Vivant. Two of their sons
first cousins of Degas mother - were Edmond, who became superintendent
of the New Orleans water works, and Norbert, the
chemist and engineer.