Tag: Edgar Degas

The Strange Side of Edgar Degas

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Dancer Onstage with a Bouquet, c 1876

A new exhibition of rare Edgar Degas monotypes reveals a more daring and experimental side to the artist.

Ballet Scene, 1879

Edgar Degas is celebrated for his impressionistic studies of ballet dancers, but a new exhibition will reveal lesser-known work. The Museum of Modern Art’s Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty will be the first time his monotypes have gone on display in the US in more than 50 years. And while it will feature some familiar subjects, viewers may be surprised to find depictions of brothels and industrialised landscapes hanging on MoMA’s walls. “The exhibition really focuses on Degas’ experimentation, trying to understand the leaps he made in terms of his approach and his technical innovations,” curator Jodi Hauptman tells BBC Culture. “It argues that it’s in his monotypes where he takes the most risk, and where he is the most modern.”

Dancer Onstage with a Bouquet, c 1876

“A monotype is where the artist draws on a metal plate and then sandwiches that metal piece with a damp piece of paper before running through a printing press,” Hauptman explains. While other forms of printmaking involve carving into wood or incising into a metal plate, in monotype the artist simply draws on the plate, allowing changes to be made until the very last moment. Hauptman thinks this encouraged a kind of “spontaneity” in Degas. “It encouraged him to be more free and liberated with his drawing,” she says. “It’s very different from the precise drawing he was trained in as a young artist.”

Ballet Scene, 1879

Autumn Landscape, 1890

Hauptman believes Degas used monotype as a way of “capturing modern life”, and it is in his series of landscapes where he is arguably at his most modern. “For their time, they are really radical as they verge on abstraction,” she explains. In Autumn Landscape, Degas tried to capture the view from a moving train. “You have to think what it would have felt like in the 19th Century for someone who’d only ever moved at the speed of a horse to then move at the speed of a train,” she continues.

Heads of a Man and a Woman, c 1877–80

Movement is a consistent theme in Degas’ work, but particularly in his monotypes. It appears again here, where he has smeared the faces of his subjects. “It’s as if the artist is only catching a glimpse of them as he races by,” Hauptman suggests. This monotype offers a glimpse into what it must have felt like for Degas, living in the rapidly expanding Paris of the 1870s. In many ways, monotype was the perfect medium to, as Hauptman says, “describe the changing nature of contemporary urban life,” due to its fluidity.

Factory Smoke, 1877-79

A Strange New Beauty is MoMA’s first exhibition of these works. It features 120 monotypes along with another 60 related pieces, including paintings, drawings, pastels and sketchbooks. “It’s not that Degas invented monotype, but he just embraced it with such enthusiasm and took it as far as it can go,” Hauptman notes. In Factory Smoke, Degas manipulated the ink to illustrate the movement of smoke across the skies of Paris. “There is a relationship between the way the smoke moves across the plate and how the ink also would have done, so there’s a beautiful meeting there.”

Waiting for the Client, 1879

Degas doesn’t depict prostitutes in any other medium but monotype. Hauptman finds his representation of the brothel and its inhabitants particularly interesting, as they are often cropped or appear on the edge of the work. “There is an emptiness at the centre, and you get sense of the brothel being a place of constant exchange,” she explains. The client is even more peripheral in this work – you can just about see him on the far left edge of the portrait. “The client is often depicted as a little hesitant, while the women are together as a group. I think that says something about that relationship,” she says.

Frieze of Dancers, c 1895

Degas made monotypes in two bursts of activity – in the mid-1870s until the mid-1880s, before returning to it the following decade, using oil paint instead of black printer’s ink. “That’s an important innovation as oil paint responds in a different kind of way to the press,” Hauptman says. According to the curator, Frieze of Dancers is one of the most important works to feature in the exhibition, as it encapsulates the idea of “the multiple and variation in a single work”. Does the painting feature four dancers, three dancers, or just one? That is for the viewer to decide, but Hauptman suggests that you can see it as a single dancer in four different moments. “With that in mind, we might relate the work to contemporary time motion studies of the photographers Muybridge and Marey, who we know Degas was interested in,” she says. As a result, the painting takes on a filmstrip-like quality that alludes to cinema.

The Fireside, c 1880-85

There are two kinds of monotype in Degas’s work: light-field and dark-field. When working with the former, he would draw on a plate just as he would on paper, but the latter was a subtractive process. The result is figures that appear to be emerging out of the darkness, as seen here, in The Fireside.

Three Women in a Brothel, Seen from Behind, c 1877–79

While a monotype only produces one image, Degas would often run the plate a second time using whatever ink was left. This created a ghost image, which he used as a ‘tonal map’ for a new work. Using pastels, Degas would often create something completely new with the second image. “In those pairs you see something that is the same and different. You see the ways he saw possibilities of making more than one form,” Hauptman says. “For Degas, he always saw possibility.”

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Edgar Degas and Impressionism

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Edgar Degas and Impressionism

Degas’s transition to modern subject matter, evident in The Steeplechase, was a long and gradual one, not an overnight conversion. Before he left Italy, he had made drawings of street characters and paintings of fashionable horse-riders, but always on a small scale.

In Paris in the early 1860s, his pictures of French racing events broke new ground both for their decidedly contemporary subject matter and for their surprising viewpoints and bold colours, which preceded the canvases of similar scenes by his renowned contemporary Édouard Manet.

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Young Spartan Girls Provoking the Boys by Edgar Degas

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Young Spartan Girls Provoking the Boys by Edgar Degas

Young Spartans Exercising, also known as Young Spartans and also as Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys,[1] is an early oil on canvas painting by French impressionist artist Edgar Degas. The work depicts two groups of male and female Spartan youth exercising, and challenging each other in some way. The work is now in the permanent collection of the National Gallery in London.

The painting depicts as its subject matter two groups of older children, four girls and five boys, with the girls apparently taunting or beckoning the boys. The girls are positioned to the left of the painting, the boys to the right, while in-between the two groups in the background appear a third group watching them; their appearance striking as they are fully dressed while the youth in the foreground stand naked or topless. Behind the onlookers, identified as Lycurgus and the mothers of the children,[2] lies the city of Sparta, dominated by Mount Taygetus, from which the bodies of the society’s “unfit” children were supposedly thrown into a ravine, to die from trauma or exposure.

History of the Painting

The painting was begun in 1860 with Degas returning to the canvas to rework the piece over the following years, though it remained unfinished upon the artist’s death. X-rays taken of the work during the early 21st century have revealed that Degas changed the positioning of the youths, their faces, and even their number; this last change resulted in the strange image of the four women in the foreground having ten legs among them.

Degas’ revisitation of the faces of the young people is often mentioned in art criticism, as it is believed the artist changed the features of the youths from the classic handsome Greek ideal, to a more urban modernistic look. The French art historian André Lemoisne, was first to note on this fact, remarking that the subjects had a contemporary Parisian look, more akin to the “gamins of Montmartre”.[2] More recent critics agree with Lemoisne, believing Degas was attempting to “update” his painting.

A second full-scale version of the painting exists, held by the Art Institute of Chicago. This version is much less finished, but it shows a vastly different background, with a more detailed landscape and a large architectural structure, around which the characters in the background are resting. The work also shows how Degas changed the number of foreground figures with an additional boy on the right of the painting.

Young Spartans Exercising was purchased by the National Gallery in 1924 and, as of late 2013, is displayed in Room 41.

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Breakfast After the Bath by Edgar Degas

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Breakfast After the Bath by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917), born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist.

A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and depiction of human isolation.

Early in his career, his ambition was to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

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Two Dancers Relaxing by Edgar Degas

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Two Dancers Relaxing by Edgar Degas

ballet dancers, dance posters, Edgar Degas, fine art posters, French Art, french impressionism, french realism, Giclee Prints, two dancers relaxing

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Blue Dancers Art Print by Edgar Degas

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Blue Dancers Art Print by Edgar Degas

blue dancers, dance posters, dancer posters, Edgar Degas, Figurative Art, French Art, french realism, modern dancers

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Degas Self Portrait, circa 1857

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Degas Self Portrait, circa 1857

degas self portrait, Edgar Degas, French Art, french impressionism, Impressionism, Modern Art, modern masters

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Edgar Degas Lifting His Hat Self-Portrait

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Edgar Degas Lifting His Hat Self-Portrait

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917), born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas (French pronunciation: [ilɛʁ ʒɛʁmɛnɛdɡɑʁ dəˈɡɑ]), was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist.

A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and depiction of human isolation.

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Portrait of a Young Woman by Edgar Degas

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Portrait of a Young Woman by Edgar Degas

art prints, collections, Edgar Degas, figurative, french realism, giclee print, Impressionism, portrait of a young woman, portraits, realism

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