« È un uomo terribile, ma franco e leale. »
La maggior parte delle opere di Degas possono essere attribuite al grande movimento dell'Impressionismo, nato in Francia negli anni sessanta del diciannovesimo secolo in reazione alla pittura accademica dell'epoca. Gli artisti che ne facevano parte come Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, stanchi di essere regolarmente rifiutati al Salone Ufficiale si erano riuniti in una società anonima per mostrare la loro arte al pubblico. In genere le caratteristiche principali dell'arte impressionista sono il nuovo uso della luce e i soggetti all'aperto. Gli impressionisti riuscirono a rivoluzionare la pittura, accorgendosi che l'occhio umano non riceve dalla realtà un'immagine dettagliata, ma un insieme di colori che poi la mente rielabora in forme distinte.
Così la prima impressione visiva divenne fondamento e scopo dell'impressionismo. Infatti questi artisti, lavoravano “en plein air” (all'aperto), ciò consentiva di riportare subito sulla tela la realtà visiva percepita. La tecnica pittorica consisteva in rapide pennellate di colore, non fissando i dettagli, ma dando un effetto cromatico – luminoso dell'insieme. Nella scelta dei temi prevalsero le situazioni in cui le vibrazioni luminose erano più percepibili perché accentuate dal movimento. Queste caratteristiche non sono sempre applicabili a Degas: anche se lui fu uno dei principali animatori delle mostre impressioniste, non trova un giusto posto nel movimento che asseriva la libertà di dipingere. Ai dipinti all'aperto egli preferiva «ciò che non si vede più nella memoria». Dirà un giorno a Pissarro: «Voi avete bisogno di una vita naturale; io di una fittizia.»
Anche se Degas fece parte ufficialmente degli impressionisti, non era però a loro unito per i tratti distintivi della pittura. La sua situazione d'eccezionalità non sfuggì ai critici di allora: anche se il suo modernismo imbarazzante veniva messo in evidenza, fu il meno controverso degli artisti francesi dell'epoca.
La tecnica e i progetti di Degas
1853-1873: l'invenzione di una «nuova pittura»Durante i primi vent'anni della sua carriera, Degas sperimenta tutti i generi. Ha subito una predilezione per i ritratti. In questi quadri, gli elementi accessori assumono a volte tanta importanza che le opere appaiono a metà tra il ritratto e la natura morta. Fu in grado di comporre grandi tele ambiziose come La famille Bellelli.
Agli inizi del 1860, Degas affronta il genere della pittura storica, ricorrendo in maniera molto personale a diverse fonti di ispirazione. Non abbandona per il momento la pittura di genere, appassionandosi molto presto alle corse dei cavalli, poi alla danza, l'opera, i caffè-concerto, e la vita quotidiana. La danza è un soggetto che segnerà indelebilmente la carriera di Degas. Egli era estasiato da quelle ballerine che illuminavano la scena. Erano, per lui, come stelle dalle quali lo sguardo non poteva staccarsi. Le dipingeva mentre si preparavano, dietro le quinte e durante le loro esibizioni. Degas andava sul posto per rappresentare al meglio i più minuti dettagli.
Per queste scene di vita moderna, a volte ha fatto ricorso ad effetti luminosi espressivi e ha usato inquadrature audaci ed ingegnose. Il genere del paesaggio è certamente quello che Degas ha usato di meno, anche se ha eseguito una serie circoscritta di paesaggi a pastello.
Infine, i primi tentativi di scultura, anche se marginali rispetto agli oli su tela, danno comunque l'avvio ad una «nuova pittura» che si svilupperà nel decennio successivo.
1874-1886: il periodo delle mostre impressionisteNel 1874, di ritorno da Parigi dopo un viaggio a New Orleans, Degas inizia a farsi conoscere. Fino a quel momento non era molto noto, malgrado il ruolo di capofila che occupava con Manet tra gli artisti del Café Guerbois. Alla seconda mostra, Degas viene notato dai critici che lo lodano o lo denigrano per il realismo del suo lavoro. La difesa del «movimento realista», per riprendere una sua espressione, è ancora molto lontana in quegli anni
Alcuni temi nuovi, come le stiratrici, le modiste o le donne alla toeletta, fanno la loro apparizione in questo periodo. Coltivando il gusto per le sperimentazioni tecniche, egli ricerca mezzi di pittura inediti. Così, nel 1877, egli presenta una serie di monotipi, a volte con l'aggiunta dei pastelli, che testimoniano di una economia di mezzi e di una libertà di fattura davvero innovatrici.
Questo periodo della vita di Degas è dunque segnato da innovazioni tecniche che vanno di pari passo con le innovazioni formali: Degas moltiplica i punti di vista audaci, con riprese dall'alto o dal basso (si veda Miss Lala au cirque Fernando). Godendo della spontaneità che gli permette il lavoro del pastello, egli ricerca effetti luminosi e colorati molto originali, applicandoli, per esempio, ai nudi molto realisti del 1886 per tradurre le vibrazioni della luce sui corpi delle donne.
Dice allora a proposito dei suoi nudi: «Finora il nudo è stato presentato in pose che supponevano la visione da parte di un pubblico. Ma le donne non sono persone semplici... Io le mostro senza civetteria, allo stato di bestie che si lavano.» È per questo motivo che spesso è stato accusato di misoginia: per la volontà deliberata di insultare la bellezza delle donne piuttosto che per l'estremo desiderio di una implacabile veridicità anatomica, quale traspare dal suo approccio.
1887-1912: oltre l'ImpressionismoPer circa trent'anni, già anziano, Degas non smette di rinnovare la sua arte. Lavorando sempre di più in serie, declina i suoi temi familiari. Non interessandosi in modo particolare al paesaggio, è sempre affascinato dalle danzatrici e sempre di più dalle donne alla toeletta che si lavano, si pettinano o escono dal bagno. Per ritrarre queste figure femminili, Degas tende a privilegiare i colori vivi e intensi, contrapponendoli, senza paura di sfociare in armonie violente («La coiffure»).
Spesso si è spiegato l'evoluzione della tavolozza dell'artista con l'aggravarsi delle sue condizioni di vista. L'uso di questi colori audaci è indissociabile dall'affermazione della potenza espressiva della linea. Degas non trascura mai la struttura formale: per mettere su tela le sue composizioni, a volte ricorre ad un disegno sottostante a carboncino e utilizza regolarmente disegni preparatori. L'uso intenso che fa della scultura partecipa allo stesso modo a questo desiderio di non trascurare la struttura formale, cercando per ogni figura il giusto movimento e l'equilibrio dei volumi.
La sculturaA partire dall' anno 1880, Degas prende a realizzare delle sculture impressioniste. Questi lavori, modelli in cera dipinta al naturale che egli in seguito completa con altri materiali (capelli, tulle per il tutù ecc.), colpirono i suoi contemporanei per il loro realismo. L'unico di questi modelli presentato in pubblico durante la sua vita, all'esposizione impressionista del 1881, fu la Petite danseuse de 14 ans. La figura, creata in cera dipinta, era completata da capelli veri, scarpette da ballo, calze e tutù in tulle.
Alla morte dell'artista, nel suo studio vennero trovate decine di queste figure in cera, che non erano destinate alla pubblicazione, ma piuttosto a fissare dei movimenti per poi servire da modelli al pittore. I temi trattati nelle sculture sono molto simili a quelli dei quadri, come la serie delle ballerine o dei nudi femminili. Le sculture vennero in parte restaurate e (alcune) fuse in bronzo, in diverse copie per ciascuna.
Degas padroneggia gli accorciamenti ellittici, la pratica dei primi piani, il gusto dell'osservazione dall'alto in basso o dal basso in alto, le opposizioni irregolari, le variazioni sul tema del controluce. Egli inventa un ruolo nella suggestione dello spazio di splendide tavolozze schizzate di luce, distribuisce sottilmente i rapporti dei riflessi, le fonti luminose, attento agli schiarimenti imprevisti che gettano chiazze di luce sui visi. L'artista osa tagliare, sezionare. Sa fare la sintesi di una serie di movimenti, i gesti che egli suggerisce con un disegno sempre più rapido hanno un sorprendente valore espressivo.
In riferimento alla sua fedeltà alle regole classiche come pure alle sue innumerevoli innovazioni, si può affermare che Degas abbia gettato un ponte tra due epoche, legando il passato al presente.
Anche se celebre, Degas resta a tutt'oggi meno amato rispetto a Vincent van Gogh, a Paul Gauguin e anche a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, e non gli si dà l'importanza data a Paul Cézanne. C'è da dire che i propositi, in questo modo, esaudiscono il suo desiderio: «Vorrei essere famoso e sconosciuto.»
- Autoritratto (1854-1855)
- Danseuse, (1856)
- Ritratto di Hilaire De Gas (1857)
- La famiglia Bellelli (1858-1867)
- Giovani spartane (1860-1862)
- Semiramide alla costruzione di Babilonia (1860-1862)
- Ritratto del pittore Bonnat (1863 circa)
- Donna con crisantemi (1865)
- Ritratto di James Tissot (1866-1868)
Cavalcata al mattino (1866)
- Cavalli da corsa davanti alle tribune (1866-1868)
- Ritratto di giovane donna (1867)
- Ritratto di Mademoiselle E.F. (1867-1868)
- L'orchestra dell'Opéra (1868 circa)
- Édouard Manet e la moglie (1868-1869)
- Case sul mare (1869)
- Lorenzo Pagans e Auguste de Gas (1869 circa)
- Marie Dihau al piano (1869-1872)
- Jeantaud, Linet et Lainé (1871)
- La classe di danza (1871-1874)
- Carrozza alle corse (1872)
- Al Balletto (1872)
- Il foyer della danza al teatro dell'Opéra (1872)
- Il mercato del cotone a New Orleans (1873)
- La pédicure (1873)
- Prove di balletto in scena (1874)
- Fantini a Longchamp (1874 circa)
- Gli orchestrali (1874-1876)
- Prova di balletto, detta anche "Prova di balletto:La prova" (1874-1877)
- Il campo da corsa (1874-1887)
- Lavandaia (1875)
- Henri Rouart davanti al suo stabilimento (1875 circa)
- Madame Jeantaud allo specchio (1875 circa)
- Ballerina in posa per il fotografo (1875 circa)
- L'assenzio (1875-1876)
- Il caffè-concerto agli Ambassadeurs (1877)
- Ballerina con bouquet sulla scena (1877 circa)
- Ballerina con bouquet (1877 circa)
- Donne in un caffè (1877)
- Carrozza alle corse (1877-1880)
- Ritratto di Henri Michel-Lévy 1878
- Ritratti alla Borsa (1878-1879)
- Amici del pittore dietro le quinte (1879 circa)
- Mademoiselle La La al Circo Fernando (1879)
- Ritratto di Diego Martelli (1879)
- Dalla modista (1882 circa)
- Ballerine (1883)
- Donna che fa il bagno (1883 circa)
- Dopo il bagno (1884)
- Ritratto di Mary Cassatt (1884 circa)
- Le stiratrici (1884 circa)
- Nel negozio di cappelli (1885 circa)
- La tinozza (1886)
- Donna che si asciuga il piede (1886)
- Ritratto di Hélène Rouart (1886)
- Donna che si pettina (1890-1892)
- Paesaggio in riva al mare (1892 circa)
- L'acconciatura (1896 circa)
- Donna che si asciuga il collo (1895-1898)
- Ballerine dietro le quinte (1897 circa)
- Ballerine alla sbarra (1900 circa)
- Tre danzatrici (1900 circa)
Femme se coiffante1887 -1890
Femme se coiffant entre 1887 et 1890 Edgar Degas (1837-1917) pastel sur papier beige collé sur carton Musée d'Orsay Exposition "Le mystère et l'éclat", pastels du musée d'Orsay (8/10/08-1/02/09) www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/manifestations/expositions/au-musee...
At the beginning of his career, Degas wanted 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.
Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the oldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. His maternal grandfather Germain Musson, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti of French descent and had settled in New Orleans in 1810. Degas (he adopted this less grandiose spelling of his family name when he became an adult) began his schooling at age eleven, enrolling in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was thirteen, and his father and grandfather became the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth.
Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycée with a baccalauréat in literature in 1853, at age 18, he had turned a room in his home into an artist's studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in The Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853, but applied little effort to his studies. In 1855 he met Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whom Degas revered and whose advice he never forgot: "Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist." In April of that year Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres. In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1858, while staying with his aunt's family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but—contrary to conventional practice—he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention: a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait.
Artistic careerUpon his return to France in 1859 Degas moved into a Paris studio large enough to permit him to begin painting The Bellelli Family—an imposing canvas he intended for exhibition in the Salon, although it remained unfinished until 1867. He also began work on several history paintings: Alexander and Bucephalus and The Daughter of Jephthah in 1859–60; Sémiramis Building Babylon in 1860; and Young Spartans around 1860. In 1861 Degas visited his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy, and made the earliest of his many studies of horses. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1865, when the jury accepted his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages, which attracted little attention. Although he exhibited annually in the Salon during the next five years, he submitted no more history paintings, and his Steeplechase—The Fallen Jockey (Salon of 1866) signaled his growing commitment to contemporary subject matter. The change in his art was influenced primarily by the example of Édouard Manet, whom Degas had met in 1864 (while both were copying the same Velázquez portrait in the Louvre, according to a story that may be apocryphal).
Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him.
After the war, Degas began in 1872 an extended stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother René and a number of other relatives lived. Staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue, Degas produced a number of works, many depicting family members. One of Degas's New Orleans works, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, garnered favorable attention back in France, and was his only work purchased by a museum (the Pau) during his lifetime.
Degas returned to Paris in 1873 and his father died the following year, whereupon Degas learned that his brother René had amassed enormous business debts. To preserve his family's reputation, Degas sold his house and an art collection he had inherited, and used the money to pay off his brother's debts. Dependent for the first time in his life on sales of his artwork for income, he produced much of his greatest work during the decade beginning in 1874. Disenchanted by now with the Salon, he instead joined a group of young artists who were organizing an independent exhibiting society. The group soon became known as the Impressionists. Between 1874 and 1886 they mounted eight art shows, known as the Impressionist Exhibitions. Degas took a leading role in organizing the exhibitions, and showed his work in all but one of them, despite his persistent conflicts with others in the group. He had little in common with Monet and the other landscape painters in the group, whom he mocked for painting outdoors. Conservative in his social attitudes, he abhorred the scandal created by the exhibitions, as well as the publicity and advertising that his colleagues sought. He also deeply disliked being associated with the term "Impressionist", which the press had coined and popularized, and insisted on including non-Impressionist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli in the group's exhibitions. The resulting rancor within the group contributed to its disbanding in 1886.
As his financial situation improved through sales of his own work, he was able to indulge his passion for collecting works by artists he admired: old masters such as El Greco and such contemporaries as Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Édouard Brandon. Three artists he idolized, Ingres, Delacroix, and Daumier, were especially well represented in his collection.
In the late 1880s, Degas also developed a passion for photography. He photographed many of his friends, often by lamplight, as in his double portrait of Renoir and Mallarmé. Other photographs, depicting dancers and nudes, were used for reference in some of Degas's drawings and paintings.
As the years passed, Degas became isolated, due in part to his belief that a painter could have no personal life. The Dreyfus Affair controversy brought his anti-Semitic leanings to the fore and he broke with all his Jewish friends. His argumentative nature was deplored by Renoir, who said of him: "What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn't stay till the end."
Although he is known to have been working in pastel as late as the end of 1907, and is believed to have continued making sculptures as late as 1910, he apparently ceased working in 1912, when the impending demolition of his longtime residence on the rue Victor Massé forced him to move to quarters on Boulevard de Clichy. He never married and spent the last years of his life, nearly blind, restlessly wandering the streets of Paris before dying in September 1917.
Artistic styleDegas is often identified as an Impressionist, an understandable but insufficient description. Impressionism originated in the 1860s and 1870s and grew, in part, from the realism of such painters as Courbet and Corot. The Impressionists painted the realities of the world around them using bright, "dazzling" colors, concentrating primarily on the effects of light, and hoping to infuse their scenes with immediacy. They wanted to express what they saw in that exact moment.
Technically, Degas differs from the Impressionists in that he continually belittled their practice of painting en plein air. "He was often as anti-impressionist as the critics who reviewed the shows", according to art historian Carol Armstrong; as Degas himself explained, "no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing." Nonetheless, he is described more accurately as an Impressionist than as a member of any other movement. His scenes of Parisian life, his off-center compositions, his experiments with color and form, and his friendship with several key Impressionist artists—most notably Mary Cassatt and Édouard Manet—all relate him intimately to the Impressionist movement.
Degas's style reflects his deep respect for the old masters (he was an enthusiastic copyist well into middle age) and his great admiration for Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix. He was also a collector of Japanese prints, whose compositional principles influenced his work, as did the vigorous realism of popular illustrators such as Daumier and Gavarni. Although famous for horses and dancers, Degas began with conventional historical paintings such as The Daughter of Jephthah (c.1859–61) and The Young Spartans (c.1860–62), in which his gradual progress toward a less idealized treatment of the figure is already apparent. During his early career, Degas also painted portraits of individuals and groups; an example of the latter is The Bellelli Family (c.1858–67), a brilliantly composed and psychologically poignant portrayal of his aunt, her husband, and their children. In this painting, as in The Young Spartans and many later works, Degas was drawn to the tensions present between men and women. In his early paintings, Degas already evidenced the mature style that he would later develop more fully by cropping subjects awkwardly and by choosing unusual viewpoints.
By the late 1860s Degas had shifted from his initial forays into history painting to an original observation of contemporary life. Racecourse scenes provided an opportunity to depict horses and their riders in a modern context. He began to paint women at work, milliners and laundresses. Mlle. Fiocre in the Ballet La Source, exhibited in the Salon of 1868, was his first major work to introduce a subject with which he would become especially identified, dancers.
In many subsequent paintings dancers were shown backstage or in rehearsal, emphasizing their status as professionals doing a job. From 1870 Degas increasingly painted ballet subjects, partly because they sold well and provided him with needed income after his brother's debts had left the family bankrupt. Degas began to paint café life as well, in works such as L'Absinthe and Singer with a Glove. His paintings often hinted at narrative content in a way that was highly ambiguous; for example, Interior (which has also been called The Rape) has presented a conundrum to art historians in search of a literary source—Thérèse Raquin has been suggested—but it may be a depiction of prostitution.
As his subject matter changed, so, too, did Degas's technique. The dark palette that bore the influence of Dutch painting gave way to the use of vivid colors and bold brushstrokes. Paintings such as Place de la Concorde read as "snapshots," freezing moments of time to portray them accurately, imparting a sense of movement. The lack of color in the 1874 Ballet Rehearsal on Stage and the 1876 The Ballet Instructor can be said to link with his interest in the new technique of photography. The changes to his palette, brushwork, and sense of composition all evidence the influence that both the Impressionist movement and modern photography, with its spontaneous images and off-kilter angles, had on his work.
Blurring the distinction between portraiture and genre pieces, he painted his bassoonist friend, Désiré Dihau, in The Orchestra of the Opera (1868–69) as one of fourteen musicians in an orchestra pit, viewed as though by a member of the audience. Above the musicians can be seen only the legs and tutus of the dancers onstage, their figures cropped by the edge of the painting. Art historian Charles Stuckey has compared the viewpoint to that of a distracted spectator at a ballet, and says that "it is Degas' fascination with the depiction of movement, including the movement of a spectator's eyes as during a random glance, that is properly speaking 'Impressionist'."
Degas's mature style is distinguished by conspicuously unfinished passages, even in otherwise tightly rendered paintings. He frequently blamed his eye troubles for his inability to finish, an explanation that met with some skepticism from colleagues and collectors who reasoned, as Stuckey explains, that "his pictures could hardly have been executed by anyone with inadequate vision". The artist provided another clue when he described his predilection "to begin a hundred things and not finish one of them", and was in any case notoriously reluctant to consider a painting complete.
His interest in portraiture led Degas to study carefully the ways in which a person's social stature or form of employment may be revealed by their physiognomy, posture, dress, and other attributes. In his 1879 Portraits, At the Stock Exchange, he portrayed a group of Jewish businessmen with a hint of anti-Semitism. In 1881 he exhibited two pastels, Criminal Physiognomies, that depicted juvenile gang members recently convicted of murder in the "Abadie Affair". Degas had attended their trial with sketchbook in hand, and his numerous drawings of the defendants reveal his interest in the atavistic features thought by some 19th-century scientists to be evidence of innate criminality. In his paintings of dancers and laundresses, he reveals their occupations not only by their dress and activities but also by their body type: his ballerinas exhibit an athletic physicality, while his laundresses are heavy and solid.
By the later 1870s Degas had mastered not only the traditional medium of oil on canvas, but pastel as well. The dry medium, which he applied in complex layers and textures, enabled him more easily to reconcile his facility for line with a growing interest in expressive color.
In the mid-1870s he also returned to the medium of etching, which he had neglected for ten years. At first he was guided in this by his old friend Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, himself an innovator in its use, and began experimenting with lithography and monotype.
He produced some 300 monotypes over two periods, from the mid-1870s to the mid-1880s and again in the early 1890s.
He was especially fascinated by the effects produced by monotype and frequently reworked the printed images with pastel. By 1880, sculpture had become one more strand to Degas's continuing endeavor to explore different media, although the artist displayed only one sculpture publicly during his lifetime.
These changes in media engendered the paintings that Degas would produce in later life. Degas began to draw and paint women drying themselves with towels, combing their hair, and bathing (see: After the Bath, Woman drying herself). The strokes that model the form are scribbled more freely than before; backgrounds are simplified.
The meticulous naturalism of his youth gave way to an increasing abstraction of form. Except for his characteristically brilliant draftsmanship and obsession with the figure, the pictures created in this late period of his life bear little superficial resemblance to his early paintings. Ironically, it is these paintings, created late in his life, and after the heyday of the Impressionist movement, that most obviously use the coloristic techniques of Impressionism.
For all the stylistic evolution, certain features of Degas's work remained the same throughout his life. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory, photographs, or live models. The figure remained his primary subject; his few landscapes were produced from memory or imagination. It was not unusual for him to repeat a subject many times, varying the composition or treatment. He was a deliberative artist whose works, as Andrew Forge has written, "were prepared, calculated, practiced, developed in stages. They were made up of parts. The adjustment of each part to the whole, their linear arrangement, was the occasion for infinite reflection and experiment." Degas himself explained, "In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement".
SculptureDegas's only showing of sculpture during his life took place in 1881 when he exhibited The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. A nearly life-size wax figure with real hair and dressed in a cloth tutu, it provoked a strong reaction from critics, most of whom found its realism extraordinary but denounced the dancer as ugly. In a review, J.-K. Huysmans wrote: "The terrible reality of this statuette evidently produces uneasiness in the spectators; all their notions about sculpture, about those cold inanimate whitenesses ... are here overturned. The fact is that with his first attempt Monsieur Degas has revolutionized the traditions of sculpture as he has long since shaken the conventions of painting."
Degas created a substantial number of other sculptures during a span of four decades, but they remained unseen by the public until a posthumous exhibition in 1918. Neither The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years nor any of Degas's other sculptures were cast in bronze during the artist's lifetime. Degas scholars have agreed that the sculptures were not created as aids to painting, although the artist habitually explored ways of linking graphic art and oil painting, drawing and pastel, sculpture and photography. Degas assigned the same significance to sculpture as to drawing: "Drawing is a way of thinking, modelling another".
After Degas's death, his heirs found in his studio 150 wax sculptures, many in disrepair. They consulted foundry owner Adrien Hébrard, who concluded that 74 of the waxes could be cast in bronze. It is assumed that, except for the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, all Degas bronzes worldwide are cast from surmoulages (i.e., cast from bronze masters). A surmoulage bronze is a bit smaller, and shows less surface detail, than its original bronze mold. The Hébrard Foundry cast the bronzes from 1919 until 1936, and closed down in 1937, shortly before Hébrard's death.
In 2004, a little-known group of 73 plaster casts, more or less closely resembling Degas's original wax sculptures, was presented as having been discovered among the materials bought by the Airaindor Foundry (later known as Airaindor-Valsuani) from Hébrard's descendants. Bronzes cast from these plasters were issued between 2004 and 2016 by Airaindor-Valsuani in editions inconsistently marked and thus of unknown size. There has been substantial controversy concerning the authenticity of these plasters as well as the circumstances and date of their creation as proposed by their promoters. While several museum and academic professionals accept them as presented, most of the recognized Degas scholars have declined to comment.
Personality and politicsDegas, who believed that "the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown", lived an outwardly uneventful life. In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon" by the novelist George Moore, and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant. Although Degas painted a number of Jewish subjects from 1865 to 1870, his anti-Semitism became apparent by the mid-1870s. His 1879 painting At The Bourse is widely regarded as strongly anti-Semitic, with the facial features of the banker taken directly from the anti-Semitic cartoons rampant in Paris at the time.
The Dreyfus Affair, which divided Paris from the 1890s to the early 1900s, further intensified his anti-Semitism. By the mid-1890s, he had broken off relations with all of his Jewish friends, publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic "Anti-Dreyfusards" until his death.
ReputationDuring his life, public reception of Degas's work ranged from admiration to contempt. As a promising artist in the conventional mode, Degas had a number of paintings accepted in the Salon between 1865 and 1870. These works received praise from Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary. He soon joined forces with the Impressionists, however, and rejected the rigid rules, judgments, and elitism of the Salon—just as the Salon and general public initially rejected the experimentalism of the Impressionists.
Degas's work was controversial, but was generally admired for its draftsmanship. His La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, or Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, which he displayed at the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881, was probably his most controversial piece; some critics decried what they thought its "appalling ugliness" while others saw in it a "blossoming".
In part Degas' originality consisted in disregarding the smooth, full surfaces and contours of classical sculpture ... [and] in garnishing his little statue with real hair and clothing made to scale like the accoutrements for a doll. These relatively "real" additions heightened the illusion, but they also posed searching questions, such as what can be referred to as "real" when art is concerned.The suite of pastels depicting nudes that Degas exhibited in the eighth Impressionist Exhibition in 1886 produced "the most concentrated body of critical writing on the artist during his lifetime ... The overall reaction was positive and laudatory".
Recognized as an important artist in his lifetime, Degas is now considered "one of the founders of Impressionism". Though his work crossed many stylistic boundaries, his involvement with the other major figures of Impressionism and their exhibitions, his dynamic paintings and sketches of everyday life and activities, and his bold color experiments, served to finally tie him to the Impressionist movement as one of its greatest artists.
Although Degas had no formal pupils, he greatly influenced several important painters, most notably Jean-Louis Forain, Mary Cassatt, and Walter Sickert; his greatest admirer may have been Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Degas's paintings, pastels, drawings, and sculptures are on prominent display in many museums, and have been the subject of many museum exhibitions and retrospectives. Recent exhibitions include Degas: Drawings and Sketchbooks (The Morgan Library, 2010); Picasso Looks at Degas (Museu Picasso de Barcelona, 2010); Degas and the Nude (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2011); Degas' Method (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2013); and Degas's Little Dancer (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 2014).
Danseuse rajustant son chausson
The Collector of Prints
Deutsch: Frau bei der Toilette
English: Woman Combing her Hair
Русский: Причёсывающаяся женщина
Français : La Toilette
Deutsch: Das Ballett 1872
EDGAR DEGAS 1834 - 1917 APRÈS LE BAIN (FEMME S'ESSUYANT)
Created: between circa 1882 and circa 1885
Deutsch: Kleines Mädchen wird am Meeresstrand von seiner Bonne gekämmt
English: Beach Scene
Deutsch: Frau in der Badewanne
Deutsch: Meerlandschaft mit Sandstrand bei EbbeCreated: circa 1869
'The Bath- Woman Supporting her Back', pastel on paper, c. 1887
Deutsch: Ausstieg aus der Badewanne
Français : Le Bureau du coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans
Deutsch: Die Baumwollfaktorei
English: A Cotton Office in New Orleans
English: "After the Bath, Woman with a Towel," pastel on blue-gray wove paper, 27 7/8 in. x 22 9/16 in., by the French artist Edgar Degas. Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, gift of Mrs. J. Montgomery. Courtesy of the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
between circa 1893 and circa 1897
Portrait of Diego Martelli1879
Deutsch: Nach dem Bade sich abtrocknende Frau
This study for an oil painting (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) depicts the financier Ernest May, a collector of Degas' work, under the portico of the Paris stock exchange. May was thirty-three in 1878, when Degas began the pastel.
Created: circa 1878–79
A esposa de Candaules
Created: between 1855 and 1856
Brooklyn Museum - Mlle. Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs (Mlle. Bécat au Café des Ambassadeurs) - Edgar Degas
Created: between 1877 and 1878
After the Bath detail image
Created: 1 January 1886
Edgar Degas - After the Bath
Created: circa 1895
Statue of French ballet student Marie van Goethem (1865-?) by Edgar Degas. History of the artwork: Musée d'Orsay
Frau sich die Haare kämmend
German: Vor dem Spiegel
1868-1869 English: Interior (nicknamed The Rape).
After the bath, woman drying herself
(1894 - 1904)
Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys, c. 1860, Art Institute Chicago
1 January 1885
'Bust man with the soft hat', by Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas - After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Back
Created: 1 January 1896
France, circa 1891-1892 Prints; lithographs Lithograph Wallis Foundation Fund in memory of Hal B. Wallis
'Bust man with the soft hat', by Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas - After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Back
Created: 1 January 1896
France, circa 1891-1892 Prints; lithographs Lithograph Wallis Foundation Fund in memory of Hal B. Wallis
Edgar Degas - Breakfast After The Bath (The Bath)
Edgar Degas - La Toilette apres le bain, c. 1888
Woman Leaving Her Bath by Edgar Degas, about 1886
Created: circa 1886
one of nude women paintings by Edgar Degas
uploaded on June 13th
Photographic self-portrait by Edgar Degas, the French painter, gelatin silver print. 4 11/16 in. x 6 9/16 in. Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Richard and Ronay Menschel Fund for the Acquisition of Photographs. Courtesy of the President and Fellows of Harvard College