Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Degas


" Yesterday i spent the whole day in the studio of a strange painter called Degas," Parisian man of letters Edmond de Goncourt wrote in his diary in 1874. "Out of all the subjects in modern life he has chosen washerwomen and ballet dancers...it is a world of pink and white...the most delightful of pretexts for using pale, soft tints." Edgar Degas, 39 years old at the time, would paint ballerinas for the rest of his career, and de Goncourt was right about the pretext. "People call me the painter of dancing girls," Degas later told Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard. "It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes." Smithsonian


Degas loved to deflate the image people had of him, but his words ring true, expressing his love for the grace of drawing and the charm of color. As a student Degas dreamed of drawing like Raphael and Michelangelo, and he later revived the French tradition of pastels that had flourished with the 18th-century master Chardin. But like his contemporaries, Manet, Cezanne and the Impressionists, he lived in an age of photography and electricity, and he turned to aspects of modern life--to slums, brothels and horse races--to apply his draftsmanship. Bathing nudes became a favorite subject, but he once compared his more contemporary studies to those of Rembrandt with mocking wit. "He had the luck, that Rembrandt!" Degas said. "He painted Susanna at the bath; me, I paint women at the tub."

At the ballet Degas found a world that excited both his taste for classical beauty and his eye for modern realism. He haunted the wings and classrooms of the magnificent Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera and its Ballet, where some of the city's poorest young girls struggled to become the fairies, nymphs and queens of the stage. As he became part of this world of pink and white, so full of tradition, he invented new techniques for drawing and painting it. He claimed the ballet for modern art just as Cezanne was claiming the landscape. The writer Daniel Halevy, who as a youth often talked with Degas, later noted that it was at the Opera that Degas hoped to find subjects of composition as valid as Delacroix had found in history.




Essay at the Met: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dgsp/hd_dgsp.htm




https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/entity/m0g_lz?categoryId=artist&hl=en 

At the races: http://www.everypainterpaintshimself.com/article/degas_at_the_races_in_the_countryside_1869

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