Thursday 8 September 2011

Edgar Degas - part 2

1886 Self-portrait

This is the second of three posts featuring the work of French artist Edgar Degas. Parts 1 and 2 feature his works related to the ballet, part 3 will feature other works. For biographical notes see part 1.
I'm afraid I don't have all of the dates and titles for for the works in this post.

1898-99 The Blue Dancers

1898-99 Two Dancers

1899 Four Dancers

1900 Ballet Dancers in the Wings

1900 Dancers at the Bar

1907 Ballet Scene

(Title unknown)

A Group of Dancers


Ballet Dancers on the Stage

Ballet Rehearsal on Stage

(Title unknown)

Dancer at the Bar

Dancer on Point

Dancer with a Fan

Dancers Bending Down

Red Ballet Skirts

Sketch of a Ballet Dancer

Three Ballet Dancers, One with Dark Crimson Waist

Three Dancers in a Class

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Edgar Degas - part 1

I thought I’d take a look at French artist Edgar Degas to coincide with a major exhibition of his work at London’s Royal Academy of Art that opens 17 September until 11 December 2011.
Royal Academy: “In the autumn of 2011 the Royal Academy of Arts will stage a landmark exhibition focusing on Edgar Degas’s preoccupation with movement as an artist of the dance. Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement will trace the development of the artist's ballet imagery throughout his career, from the documentary mode of the early 1870s to the sensuous expressiveness of his final years.

The exhibition will be the first to present Degas’s progressive engagement with the figure in movement in the context of parallel advances in photography and early film; indeed, the artist was keenly aware of these technological developments and often directly involved with them.”

Self-portrait c1855-6

This is part 1 of a 3-part post on the works of Degas – parts 1 and 2 showing a selection of his numerous ballet subjects, part 3 – other works.

Edgar Degas is usually classed with the impressionists, and he exhibited with them in seven of the eight impressionist exhibitions. However, his training in classical drafting and his dislike of painting directly from nature produced a style that represented a related alternative to impressionism.

Degas was born in Paris in 1834 into a well-to-do banking family. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under a disciple of the famous French classicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, where Degas developed the great drawing ability that was to be a salient characteristic of his art.
After 1865, under the influence of the budding impressionist movement, he gave up academic subjects to turn to contemporary themes. But, unlike the impressionists, he preferred to work in the studio and was uninterested in the study of natural light that fascinated them. He was attracted by theatrical subjects, and most of his works depict racecourses, theatres, cafés, music halls, or boudoirs.

His study of Japanese prints led him to experiment with unusual visual angles and asymmetrical compositions. His subjects often appear cropped at the edges, as in Ballet Rehearsal (1876, Glasgow Art Galleries and Museum).

1876 Ballet Rehearsal

In the early 1870s the female ballet dancer became his favourite theme. He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes in which dancers on stage, entering the stage, and resting or waiting to perform are shown simultaneously and in counterpoint, often from an oblique angle of vision.

On a visit in 1872 to Louisiana, where he had relatives in the cotton business, he painted The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans (finished 1873), his only picture to be acquired by a museum in his lifetime.

1873 A Cotton Office in New Orleans

In the 1880s, when his eyesight began to fail, Degas began increasingly to work in two new media that did not require intense visual acuity: sculpture and pastel. In his sculpture, as in his paintings, he attempted to catch the action of the moment, and his ballet dancers and female nudes are depicted in poses that make no attempt to conceal their subjects' physical exertions.

His pastels are usually simple compositions containing only a few figures. He was obliged to depend on vibrant colors and meaningful gestures rather than on precise lines and careful detailing, but, in spite of such limitations, these works are eloquent and expressive and have a simple grandeur unsurpassed by any of his other works. Personally speaking, I find Degas' drawings and pastels  his superior works.

In 1881 he exhibited a sculpture, Little Dancer (a bronze casting of which is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and as his eyesight failed thereafter he turned increasingly to sculpture, modeling figures and horses in wax over metal armatures. These sculptures remained in his studio in disrepair and were cast in bronze only after his death.

Little Dancer aged Fourteen bronze

 Degas was not well known to the public, and his true artistic stature did not become evident until after his death. He died in Paris in 1917.

1870s Dancer at the Photographer's

1871 Dance Class

1873 Dance School

1873-74 Dancer adjusting her Slipper

1874 Ballet Rehearsal on the Set

1874 Dance Class

1874 Dancer

1876-77 Dancers Practicing at the Bar

1876-77 The Star

1877-80 Dancer Stretching at the Bar

1878-80 Ballet Scene

1879-80 Sitting Dancer

1880 The Dance Examination

1881 Ballet Class

1882-85 Tired Dancer

1885 Ballet, Seen from the Loge

1886-90 Dancers Climbing a Stair

1888 Before the Ballet

1890 Blue Dancers

1890 Two Dancers

Sunday 4 September 2011

Nicolas de Staël

Nicolas de Staël (1914 – 1955) was a painter known for his use of a thick impasto and his highly abstract landscape painting. He also worked with collage, illustration and textiles.
Though born in Russia in 1914, de Staël's family was forced to emigrate to Poland in 1919 because of the Russian Revolution. His father and stepmother would die in Poland and de Staël was sent with his older sister Marina to Brussels to live with a Russian family.

He eventually studied art at the Brussels Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1932. During the 1930s he travelled throughout Europe, including Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Algeria, eventually settling in Paris in 1938. He also served in the French Foreign Legion for a time.

In 1941, he moved to Nice where he met Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, and Robert Delaunay, and these artists would inspire his first abstract paintings, or “Compositions”.
During the WWII his paintings were included in several group exhibitions and in 1944 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie l'Esquisse. In April 1945 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher and in May 1945 his paintings were included in the first Salon de Mai and the Salon d'Automne. In Paris in 1944 he met and befriended Georges Braque, and by 1945 his exhibitions brought him critical fame.

In1946, thanks to his friendship with artist André Lanskoy, de Staël made a contract with Louis Carré who agreed to buy all the paintings that he produced. In 1947 he befriended his neighbor American private art dealer Theodore Schempp. De Stael's new studio in Paris was very close to Georges Braque’s and the two painters became close friends.

His paintings began to attract attention worldwide. In 1950 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris and Schempp introduced de Stael's paintings to New York, with a private exhibition at his Upper East Side apartment. He had considerable success in the United States, and England in the early 1950s. In 1950 Leo Castelli organized a group exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York City that included him. In 1952 He had one-man exhibitions in London, Montevideo, and in Paris. In 1953 he had his first official one-man exhibition at M. Knoedler & Co. in New York City. The show was both a commercial and critical success.

Back in Paris, de Staël met visiting New York art dealer Paul Rosenberg who offered de Staël an exclusive contract. By the end of 1953 the demand for de Staël's paintings was so great that Rosenberg raised his prices and continually requested more paintings. By 1953, de Staël's depression had led him to seek isolation in the south of France. He suffered from exhaustion, insomnia and depression. The demand was so high for his planned spring 1954 exhibition, that Rosenberg requested an additional fifteen paintings. Once again this exhibition was both commercially and critically successful. His new works around this time also marked a move away from abstraction and a return to figurative, still-life and landscape painting. In the wake of a disappointing meeting with a disparaging art critic in 1955 he committed suicide. He leapt to his death from his eleventh story studio terrace, in Antibes. He was 41 years old.

1948 Marathon

1950 Composition

1951 Figure

1952 Figure

1952 Figure by the Sea

1952 Footballer

1952 Landscape

1952 Landscape Study

1953 (Abstract Figure)

1953 (Abstract Figure)

1953 (Landscape cloud)

1953 Ballet

1953 Landscape

1954 Abstract Figure

1954 Le Bateau

1954 Marseilles

1954 Marseilles sous la Neige

1954 Méditerranée

1954 Nice

1954 Paysage

1954 Sicile

1955 (Boat Harbour)