Tag Archives: Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas – Lost in Reveries

27 Jul

Again Degas. Again one of his lesser known works which I’ve chosen just to prove that even the most ordinary paintings have a story of their own and a deeper meaning.

1865. Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers - Degas1865 Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers

In this very interesting painting, the woman and flowers are competing for the viewer’s attention. Well, ‘competing’ is maybe a harsh word because the woman seems utterly uninterested in anything and she’s in fact looking into the distance, focused on something we cannot see, though I wonder what could it be. On the other hand, flowers, beautiful chrysanthemums if I’m not mistaken, have taken most of the space on canvas, totally pushing the woman out of the focus. Conventionally, we are taught to look at a human figure in art as the centre, but here the chrysanthemums serve as a central part of the painting, and this is not Degas’ mistake or miscalculation, it holds a significance.

By placing the woman on the side Degas actually directs our thoughts towards the true meaning and idea behind the, at the first sight, ordinary scene and subject. In addition to her corner position, the woman also hides her face with a hand. This asymmetrical composition contributes to the directness and strong impact the painting leaves on the viewer. Equalisation of woman and flowers provides an opportunity for us to compare the physical presents of chrysanthemums and the spiritual absence of the woman. This painting is a simple scene from everyday life. The woman is lost in her reveries, most likely bitter and disappointed with the banalities of everyday life, just like the tragic heroine of Flaubert’s novel ‘Madame Bovary’. She doesn’t appear to be as romantic as Emma Bovary or as idealistic, but after looking at this painting, this agonising detail of everyday life, the boredom and despair is becoming more and more visible. Look at the colours; brown, orange, grey and utterly boring. Woman’s dress and the tablecloth are almost the same colour. Everyday life is coloured in boredom. If this would be a scene from the film, you could here the monotonous clock ticks, soft light of the day on the wane, attention-seeking chrysanthemums could be a gift from a lover just like in Madame Bovary’s case. But the flowers wither, the lover is far away, and days go by nevertheless.

Degas’ portraits in general are all witnesses to the impossibility of conjuring any kind of individuality in the changeable environment of modern life.

Edgar Degas – Star of the Ballet

9 Jul

Edgar Degas is my favourite Impressionist painter. He’d probably turn in his grave if he knew I called him an Impressionist because he hated the term, preferring to call himself a ‘Realist’ or ‘Independent’. I’ve written about him only once, but I adore his work so much that I don’t even feel the need to express how deeply I admire and love his ballerinas and theatre scenes.

1878. Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers by degas1878 Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers (Star of the Ballet)

Degas’ name in art is almost inseparable with ballerinas, in the same way that Monet’s name is inseparable with waterlilies or the Sainte-Victoire mountain with Cezanne. Degas started painting ballerinas and subjects connected to ballet around 1870 when his family bankrupted. These paintings were appealing to the audience and possible buyers.

Painting Star of the Ballet is not my favourite Degas’ painting but it’s certainly very interesting. The paintings shows the ‘star of the ballet’ as the title suggests during her solo-performance on an empty stage. Other ballerinas can be seen peeking behind the curtains. The star is finishing her dance movement which Degas captured very accurately; one leg is visible, her hands are elegantly harmonised, and her head is slightly inclined to her right. One feels that one is truly witnessing this beautiful passing moment, and Degas highlighted this dynamic and fleeting mood even more by painting the skirt so fluttering, and the plush black bow around her neck flying around. The ballerina is placed in the right corner of the canvas, while the empty part of the stage occupies the largest part. This interesting asymmetry of the composition (all due to Degas’ interest in Japanese art) only enhances the sense of this fleeting moment. Still, her movement seems strangely frozen at the same time. Like the characters on Keats’ Grecian urn, the ballerina cannot travel through time, it even seems like she’s going to fall because of the lopsidedness of the composition. Degas hasn’t painted the duration of the movement, but rather the ‘eternity’ of the captured movement. His ballerina is eternally incomplete, her leg is invisible due to the dance position, and she’s balancing on the other leg like a flower.

The model for the painting was a very popular nineteenth century ballerina of Catalan origin – Rosita Mauri, famous for her ballet skills, her beauty and fierce temper. She captured the attention of many artists of the day. Degas’ brush is not the only one in Paris that wanted to capture her gracefulness on canvas, other painters such as Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Leon Comerre painted her too. She even caught the attention of the symbolis poet Stéphane Mallarmé with her performance in Andre Messager’s ballet Les Deux Pigeons. He wrote he was impressed with her ‘ritualistic animality’ because she performed the lead role with her long black hair loose.

Edgar Degas – ‘Little Dancer of Fourteen Years’

26 Nov

At the 6th Impressionist Exhibition in 1881. Edgar Degas astonished everyone by presenting a sculpture. Previously he had just painted ballerinas, but now he choose to captivate the movement of a dancer in wax, an unusual medium at the time. Opinions varied; some critics decried its ‘appalling ugliness‘ while others saw in it a ‘blossoming‘. Still, this statuette is perhaps Degas’ most controversial work.

1879. The Little Fourteen–Year–Old Dancer - Edgar Degas 4

It was the first and the only time during Degas’ lifetime that the sculpture was exhibited. Extraordinary realism of the statuette surprised the critics, but the little dancer was considered ugly.

Degas made the statuette from wax and painted it so lifelike with real hair and clothes, and he even tied her hair with a ribbon, given to him by the model. Today you can see the bronze copies of a statuette, but although beautiful, they’re not as spooky, revolutionary or lifelike as the original, hand painted, wax ballerina must have seemed. Model for the dancer was a young Belgian girl, a typical ‘Petits Rat‘, a fourteen year old student of the Paris Opera Ballet named Marie van Goethem. Her family came to Paris in the early 1860s from Belgium. Marie, born in 1865, had an older sister Antoinette and a younger one named Charlotte. Both Marie and Charlotte were accepted into the dance school of the Paris Opéra in 1878, where Antoinette was employed as an extra. In 1880 Marie passed the examination admitting her to the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet and made her debut on the stage in ‘La Korrigane’.

Van Goethem family moved very frequently; from a stone apartment building on ‘Rue Notre-Dame de Lorette’ called ‘Place Bréda’, near Degas’s studio on ‘Rue Saint-Georges’, the family settled on ‘Rue de Douai’, on the lower slopes of Montmartre, a few blocks from ‘Rue Fontaine’ where Degas’ studio was located at the time. The Breda district in which that had previously lived was very poor and one of the most squalid areas for prostitution. As most ‘Petits Rats‘, Marie came from a poor and disreputable family. Various rumours circulated about her behavior. Some considered her sloppy and vulgar. Still, for Degas who frequently attended ballet performances at the Paris Opera and observed classes in dance school, Marie was a useful model. She would pop around in Degas’ studio and sit for him for four hours. She had beautiful long hair which she was very proud of, and when she danced, she would stick up her chin so that her hair would fall down her back. This particular pose can be seen in other Degas’ paintings she posed for. However, the position Degas required from Marie is very difficult and unnatural; he’d pull her hands at the back and tell her to stick her chin even higher. Even her feat are in a weird position. The arms are taut and the legs are twisted, a ballerina herself is presented differently than accepted, this is not an angelic pose which would be usual and approved.

1879. The Little Fourteen–Year–Old Dancer - Edgar Degas 3

1879. The Little Fourteen–Year–Old Dancer - Edgar Degas 5

1879. The Little Fourteen–Year–Old Dancer - Edgar Degas 2

Some Degas’ contemporaries praised the originality and modern approach of the statuette. Joris-Karl Huysmans called it ‘the first truly modern attempt at sculpture I know’. However, most of the critics were very cruel not only towards the statuette, but to the little dancer as well. Certain critics compared the dancer to a monkey and ot Aztecs. One critic, Paul Mantz, called her the ‘flower of precocious depravity‘, with a face ‘marked by the hateful promise of every vice‘ and ‘bearing the signs of a profoundly heinous character.‘ Degas had exhibited the sculpture inside a glass case, and the audience reported that is looked like a medical specimen.

Marie’s career as a ballerina ended soon after. She had skipped too many classes and at the end of 1881. taverns have replaced the dance stage. Her later whereabouts are unknown, as is any information about her death. An article in L’Evénement, which preceded the dismissal by two months, reported ‘Miss van Goeuthen—fifteen years old, has an older sister who is an extra at the Opera and a younger sister in the Opera dance school—consequently she frequents the Martyrs Tavern and the Rat Mort.‘ Once a gracious model to Degas, Marie stumbled in life. Still, she modeled not only for this famous statuette, but for many other Degas’ artworks such as ‘Dancer with Fan‘, ‘Dancing Lesson‘, ‘Dancer Resting‘ and many preparatory sketches.

1873. The Dance Class by Edgar Degas 1873-76. The Dance Class by Edgar Degas (You can see the proud Marie in the foreground; with a yellow ribbon in her beautiful long hair and chin raised high.)

1879. Dancer with a Fan - Edgar Degas1879. Dancer with a Fan – Edgar Degas

1880. Dancer with a Fan - Degas1880. Dancer with a Fan – Degas

1879. Dancer Resting - Degas1879. Dancer Resting – Degas

Impressionists – Profiles

23 Nov

Impressionism in a 19th century art movement that originated in Paris. It was considered radical at the time it appeared; vivid colours and sketch like appearance of the paintings was something completely new to the audience who was accustomed to more somber paintings exhibited at the Salon.

1870s Dancers - Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917)

PAINTING STYLE:

– asymmetrical composition (influence of Japonism)

– his portraits are known for their portrayal of human isolation and their psychological complexity

– off-center compositions, experiments with color and form

– his painting style shows admiration for the old masters and his admiration for Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Eugene Delacroix

– sense of movement is evident in his paintings

– ‘rich-colored realism’

PAINTING SUBJECTS: ballerinas, dancers, nudes, Parisian cafe scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Bellelli family

Woman in the Bath

Stage Rehearsal

L’Absinthe

INTERESTING FACTS: he believed that ‘the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown‘.

– known for his often cruel wit

1863.  Luncheon on the Grass by Manet small

Edouard Manet (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883)

PAINTING STYLE:

-black outlining of figures (his work is considered as ‘early modern’)

– roughly painted style and photographic lighting

– composition reveals his study of the old masters such as Giorgione, Titian, Velazquez and Goya

– flatness; inspired by Japanese woodblock prints

PAINTING SUBJECTS: cafe scenes, paintings of social activities, Paris street scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Luncheon on the Grass (1863.)

Olympia (1863.)

Young Flautist (1866.)

Music in the Tuileries (1862.)

The Railway (1872.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– he often used Victorien Meuret as a model

– married his piano teacher, a Dutch lady Suzanne Leenhoff whom he used as a model as well

1872. Claude Monet- Impression, soleil levant

 

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he used bright colours in dabs and dashes and squiggles of paint

– by painting landscapes he tried to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons

– he studied the effects of atmosphere

– due to his bad eye sight near the end of his life, he started painting with dots

PAINTING SUBJECTS: gardens and water lilies, women in garden or outdoors, river and boats, Rouen cathedral

FAMOUS WORKS:

Impression, Sunrise

Rouen Cathedral Series

London Parlament Series

Water lilies

INTERESTING FACTS:

– had a large family and married two times

1876. Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette - Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919)

PAINTING STYLE:

– vibrant light and saturated colour

–  warm sensuality

– through freely brushed touches of color,  figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings

– he admired the 18th century master Francois Boucher, as well as Raphael and Renaissance masters

PAINTING SUBJECTS: focus on people in intimate and candid compositions, female nude

FAMOUS WORKS:

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880.)

Nude (1910.)

Bal du moulin de la Galette (1876.)

The Theatre Box (1874.)

Two Sisters (1881.)

1872. Berthe Morisot, The Cradle

Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895)

PAINTING STYLE:

– She worked in oil paint, watercolor, pastel, and produced sketches

– sense of space and depth through the use of color

– used white expansively in her paintings

– influenced by the color and expressive, confident brushwork of Fragonard

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models, including her daughter Julie, landscapes, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes, later nudes (avoided urban and street scenes)

– Her paintings reflect the 19th-century cultural restrictions of her class and gender

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Cradle (1872.)

Lady at her Toilette (1875.)

Reading (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she was married to Edouard Manet’s brother Eugene with whom she had a daughter Julie

– she was the one who introduced plein-air technique to Manet, after Corot had shared it with her

1878. Self-portrait by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– while in Italy she studied works of Correggio and Parmigianino

– Under the influence of Impressionist, Cassatt revised her technique, composition, and use of color and light, manifesting her admiration for the works of the French savant garde, especially Degas and Manet

– soft colour palette and light backgrounds

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life, portraits, mother-and-child subjects, opera scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge (1879.)

In the Box (1879)

Self-portrait (1878.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she admired Degas and his pastels had left a deep impression on her

– she was very close with Degas and they shared similar tastes in art, music and literature, they had studied painting in Italy, came from affluent backgrounds, were independent and never married

1875. Les Raboteurs de parquet - Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he painted in more realistic manner then the rest of the gruop

– influenced by Japanese prints and photography

– intense interest in perspective effects

– he used a soft impressionistic technique reminiscent of Renoir to convey the tranquil nature of the countryside, in sharp contrast to the flatter, smoother strokes of his urban paintings

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits, urban Paris, still life paintings

FAMOUS WORKS:

Les raboteurs de parquet (1875.)

Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877.)

Rue Halévy, From the 6th Floor (1878.)

Nude Lying on a Couch (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– in addition to painting, he had many other interests including stamp collecting, orchid growing, yacht building and even textile design

– he was also a patron of art and an art collector

1897. Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps by Pissaro

Camille Pissarro (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903)

PAINTING STYLE:

– The manner of painting was too sketchy and looked incomplete

– visible and expressive brushwork

– shadows painted in colour, rather than black or brown

– By the 1880s, Pissarro began to explore new themes and methods of painting – Neo-Impressionsm

– Pointillism (along with Seurat)

PAINTING SUBJECTS: mostly landscapes scenes, natural outdoor setting

FAMOUS WORKS:

Boulevard Montmartre la nuit (1898.)

La Place due Théâtre Français (1898.)

Boulevard Montmartre à Paris (1897.)

Un Carrefour à l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1876.)

Edgar Degas – L’Absinthe

16 Nov

After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. …” (Oscar Wilde)

1876. L'Absinthe, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas a

What’s hiding behind this, on the first sight, simple cafe scene in Paris? Who is this gentleman and the lady sitting sadly net to him? Are they sad, or just tired and exhausted from the life in the city?

Edgar Degas painted this painting called ‘L’Absinthe’ in 1876. The critics were absolutely repelled by it; they considered it ugly and disgusting, while the characters were deemed degraded and uncouth. It does seem dull, gray and lifeless at the first sight, but there’s something so appealing about this raw representation of modern life. The painting shows two isolated individuals who sit estranged in a cafe, waiting for the gray and lonely Parisian day to turn into something better. The man with a black hat on, is smoking a pipe and distractedly watching into the distance. The lady, who is also formally dressed, sits with a glass of Green Fairy, that is, Absinthe, in front of her. Their shadows can be seen on the wall, perhaps suggesting that they are themselves shadows of life, with their beat appearance, melancholic gazes, and the overall aura of resignation around them. The two individuals obviously have nothing else to do, for they are sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day doing nothing. Their position in society is questionable as is their reputation. Painted in grey and brown tones, this painting represents not only isolation and oppressive atmosphere of the city, but also the emotional aspect of the scene; the emotional burden of boredom and the meaninglessness of life.

Model for the man was Marcellin Desboutin, a painter, printmaker and a bohemian. The model for the lady with sad eyes was an actress Ellen Andree who also posed for the other Impressionists, such as Renoir. The cafe they’re sitting in is the Cafe de la Nouvelle Athenas; a famous meeting place for the Impressionists, both Degas and Van Gogh regularly visited the cafe, and many artists after such as Matisse. At the time the painting was painted, Paris was growing rapidly, the industry was changing the landscape and a new era was on the horizon. Degas’ choice of subjects reflects his modern approach. As a painter, Degas observes the modern life and paints it as it is, without embellishments, but also without blatant judgment or false morality. He favored painting ballerinas, milliners, laundresses, cafe scenes and denizens of Parisian low life.

L’Absinthe‘ represents the increasing social isolation in Paris during its stage of rapid grow. Degas used these individuals as a symbol for the isolation and oppression many people, especially the bohemians and workers who didn’t profit of Industrialisation, suffered from. These low existences represent the boredom, emotional coldness and detachment from nature which came with the rapid development of Paris in the second half of the 19th century. Seems like the absinthe is the only cure for their sad and disappointed face expressions.

Painters that inspire me the most…

6 Jul

Though I absolutely adore many artists, not all of them inspire me in painting. I love Fragonard for example, but I could hardly be inspired by his stiff ladies in pastoral setting, dressed in their finest rose coloured silk gowns; that’s to idealistic, art needs to be more raw, filled with melancholy or anger or despair for me to like it. Other artists, on the other hand, inspire me with almost all of their paintings. I’ll present you the nine painters that inspire me the most.

1877. Degas - The Green Dancers

Degas

I hope you already know what great passion I have for Degas; I absolutely adore his ballerinas and he’s probably my favourite Impressionist. Degas is the proof that one subject, such as ballerinas in this case, can be painted over and over again, every time interpreted in a different way. Claude Monet did something similar, painting the Rouen Cathedral more than thirty times, each time observing the change of light. Back to the subject, I love Degas’ work in general because when I look at his paintings I feel like I’m there, like I am the candle that lightens the stage. His paintings have a very intimate feel.

1873. The Railway by Manet

Manet

Manet is one of my favourite Impressionist too; his simple approach to painting, rebellious spirit and Victorine Meurent as his muse and a model have all drawn me into exploring his work. I love how he painted every day life scenes; Parisian cafes, courtesans, ladies, absinth drinkers…

1888. Starry Night Over the Rhone - van gogh

1889. The Starry Night - van gogh

Van Gogh

I’m not a die-hard Van Gogh fan, but admire his work greatly and the two paintings you see above are my favourite paintings by him, they’re called Starry Night Over the Rhone and The Starry Night. The striking thing about these paintings is how you can see the brush strokes and still, with that heavy, relief coat of colour the paintings seem dreamy and magical, it’s amazing. And the stars seem so cheerful, as if they’re playing on the indigo sky above the sleeping town.

1888. Mardi gras (Pierrot et Arlequin) - Cezanne

1898. The Bathers (Cézanne)

Cezanne

Another Post-Impressionist, Cezanne, is influential on my art because I find his work to be daring with a rather different approach. The water colours you see above are one of my favourite paintings by him, not to mention his series of skulls which show his concern with transience. I like how real this water colour painting seems, you can really see the brush strokes and he used only two basic colours; yellow and blue which shows the simplicity in which he executed his work.

1878. La Buveuse d'absinthe - Felicien Rops

Felicien Rops

What I like about Felicien Rops’ paintings is the provocative way in which he painted, at first sight, ordinary subject. This painting, for example, is called La Buveuse d’Absinthe, and though Rops is not the first who elaborated this theme, he’s certainly the first who had done it in this rough way. If you look at this painting, you’ll see it appears more like a sketch rather than a finished painting. So ahead of his time, Rops painted this back in 1878. when the painting had to be perfectly detailed and executed in order to be presentable and accepted by the conservative public.

1891. James Ensor, Skeletons Fighting Over a Hanged Man

James Ensor

I first became acquainted with Ensor’s work in late December 2013. and since then I’ve studied his paintings in detail. Far more important than considered, Ensor was crucial in the development of both Expressionism and Surrealism. His paintings mostly feature the same elements; skeletons which he used as an allegory. In his paintings skeletons wear masks and are depicted the same as humans. Ensor was the innovator of the 19th century art and there for his paintings are a foundation for the twentieth century art.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

Edvard Munch

Painting The Scream is perhaps one of my favourite paintings ever. I love the vibrant colours, strong contrasts and the helplessness and agony of that man. I find the crooked, restless and hectic atmosphere of the painting very inspirational. It almost seems as if it was done at one brush stroke, at one moment. The painting is very, very expressive.

1918. Hébuterne by Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani

I have a great passion for Modigliani’s work. Melancholic spirit captivates all his portraits and nudes. Long-faced, sad beauties,that gaze thoughtfully at their dreary and lonely surrounding. The sadness that pervades his paintings is very inspirational to me and I like how dreamy the ladies on his paintings seem. His portraits, particularly this portrait of Jeanne, seem so realistic, yet so beautiful and magical.

1890. Bal au Moulin Rouge  - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

 Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec

And finally, the famous Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec, a Post-Impressionistic painter who depicted the Parisian night life; courtesans, theatres, Montmarte and elegant ladies in provocative, elegant and rather exciting approach. His painting stand as a colourful ending of the nineteenth century.

Of course, these are not all the artists that I seek inspiration from. Others are: George de Feuer, Klimt, Soutine…