Friday, November 4, 2011

Artist Profile: Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas was born in Paris France, on 19 July 1834. He was known for his painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He especially liked, it would seem, creating art depicting dancers. At eleven he enrolled at the "Lycée Louis-le-Grand, graduating in 1853 with a baccalauréat in literature" (liberallifestyles). His father wanted him to go into law, which he did try for a time, but never quite took to. Instead, he kept with painting, which he began early in life. In 1855, he heard the advice that would motivate him for the rest of his life when he met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, who said, "Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist" (liberallifestyles).
The "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years" ("French: La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans"), one of Degas’ most famous sculptures, was originally done in wax during c. 1881, and not cast in bronze until 1922. It is dressed in a cotton skirt and with a hair ribbon. This later casting, of the 27 bronze statues, was decided upon by Degas’ wife and daughter, as Degas died in 1917. The most interesting thing about this statue is that every museum that shows it dresses it in a different tutu.
Degas sculptures were done mostly for his own enjoyment, as well as his personal friends and family. They were titled according to the way they looked, and not necessarily by him. For example, the "First Arabesque Penchée" was originally known as "Arabesque Crossed Over the Right Leg, Right Hand Near the Ground, Left Arm Outstretched." This one was also originally done in wax before c. 1890, and later copied to bronze. He liked doing ballerinas because they were "disciplined to achieve and to maintain the difficult and often entirely unnatural movements of ballet" (metmuseum). This is interesting, I think, because most people, it seems, likes to make sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things, but Degas liked to look for what we could do, what was humanly possible, and sculpt those.
It should be here mentioned that Degas is now seen as one of he foremost fathers of Impressionism. While that may not seem important through a sculpture standpoint, it is, in fact, one of the most important aspects of Degas’ career. This is because while he was a good sculptor, he was not only a sculptor and did, in fact, do many other things with his talents. It seems relevant to sculpture now because some people might be better at one thing or another, but if they continue to work at both, their talent and appreciation will grow. This, I think, is what happened to Degas.

1 comment:

  1. I certainly don't think "sculptor" when I here Degas, but he did make make some. I think he was successful in transforming his paintings into sculpture.