Artist Of The Month: Edgar Degas
Modern Artist, par excellence
Edgar Hilaire-Germain Degas (July 19, 1834 – Sept 27, 1917) is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism. His strong draftsmanship, composition, and superb rendition of movement led to his being considered one of the masters of late 19th century painting.
Degas is best known for his depictions of the ballet and the racecourse, which he produced in a variety of media. Although Degas participated in most of the Impressionist exhibitions, his fascination with rendering the human body in motion and his preference for working in his studio, sets his work apart from the other Impressionist painters.
Edgar Degas was born in Paris, France. His father was a wealthy banker and his mother was an American from New Orleans. His family supported his ambition to be a painter and after leaving school he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, studying under Louis Lamothe, a disciple of the French neoclassical painter Ingres. In 1855 Degas met Ingres, who instilled in the young artist the importance of drawing, and it was during this period that Degas developed the clear, strong outlines that would later be the prominent feature of his works.
In 1856 Degas went to Italy, where he stayed until 1859, copying works by Renaissance masters. When he returned to Paris, he copied paintings in the Louvre and it is while he was copying a Velasquez painting that he med Edouard Manet, who would influence the young Degas to paint contemporary subjects.
Degas exhibited a number of historical paintings in the annual Paris Salon until the late 1860s when, under the influence of other avant-garde artists of the day, his art shifted from the classical, romantic style to depictions of modern, everyday life -- theatrical scenes captured in spontaneous motion. He rendered his subjects in bold brushstrokes and expressive colors influenced by Japanese prints. His new subject matter included ballet dancers, launderesses and racecourse scenes, with the emphasis placed on movement and purity of line, capturing a fleeting moment of spontaneous motion. In this sense, he was a precursor of the snapshot in modern photography.
During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 Degas took part in the defense of Paris and in 1872 he went to stay with his brother in New Orleans. There he painted The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans, later purchased by a museum during his lifetime.
In 1874 Degas joined the group of artists that came to be known as the Impressionists. The group, which included Monet, Cezanne, Pissarro, Sisley and Morisot, organized alternative exhibitions that were open to all and did not have a jury to assess the works. Although Degas participated in all but one of them, he objected to being classified as an Impressionist.
By the 1880s, Degas was working mainly in pastels, a medium which allowed him to express his mastery of drawing in vibrant colors and simple compositions. These expressive works are considered to be the artist’s finest.
Degas firmly believed that a painter should dedicate himself totally to his art, and therefore could have no personal life. For that reason, he never married and, as the years ticked by, he became isolated. His eyesight began to fail and he turned to sculpture. His subjects continued to be ballet dancers and he tried to freeze their movements in his works. The sculptures were abandoned in his studio, to be cast in bronze only after his death.
In 1912 Edgar Degas was forced to leave his residence due to a demolition order on the building. He stopped working due to poor eyesight and during the last years of his life he wandered the streets of Paris, a lonely, friendless old man who was almost blind.
Degas died in Paris on September 27, 1917. His funeral went almost unobserved and unattended. During his lifetime his work had been both admired and ridiculed. It was only after his death that the true stature of Degas’ work was recognized.
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Art in the News:
Museum Heist In Brazil – Thieves Steal Picasso Blue Period Painting
In a brazen heist, art thieves broke into the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and stole two paintings worth millions of dollars. It took them just three minutes to break into the building using a hydraulic car jack, smash two glass doors, run up the stairs to the second floor and grab two paintings.
Associated Press reports that the security cameras caught three men entering the building at 5:09 a.m. but the alarm never went off. By 5:12 a.m. the thieves had escaped with “Portrait of Suzanne Bloch”, a Blue Period Picasso painted in 1904 and “O Lavrador de Café” by Portinari, an important Brazilian artist.
This is a highly professional job” said Marcos Gomes de Moura, the Sao Paulo police investigator leading the case. He believes that the thieves were commissioned to carry out the heist by some crazy, wealthy art lover who wanted the paintings for his private collection, because they took only those two works, which were hanging in different rooms, and nothing else. Moura added that in his opinion the art lover was “someone who, although wealthy, was not rich enough to buy the paintings”.
Turner Paintings Used In Global Warming Studies
Source: : AP
A group of scientists studied the colors used by 19th century British painter J.M.W. Turner in over 500 oil paintings and watercolors of sunsets to try and find clues to climate change. The study aims to calculate the amount of dust in the atmosphere by measuring the amount of red and green paint used in artworks – the greater the pollution, the redder the sunset.
According to the Associated Press, the scientists studied works painted around the time of major volcanic eruptions in the hope of improving computer models for future climate change.
The study, led by Greek scientist Christos Zerefos at the National Observatory in Athens, is believed to be the first of its kind and arose from an observation of redder colors being used in paintings of sunsets following large volcanic eruptions.
Some British and American scientists and meteorologists warn against trying to draw scientific conclusions based on an artist’s vision; however, Zerefos and his fellow researchers have written in scientific journals that the artists “appear to have simulated the colors of nature with a remarkable precise coloration”. “They all may have different ways of painting, but the colors they used were representing the real environment.”
Outside the Lines
" Art is vice, you don't marry it legitimately, you ravish it!"
"Taste! It doesn't exist. An artist makes beautiful things without being aware of it."
"'That Manet,' as soon as I did dancers, he did them. He always imitated."
"Monet's landscapes with their light and agitated atmosphere make me feel there must be a draught in the exhibition room — I feel like putting up my collar."