Degas , Danse, Dessin. A Tribute to Degas with Paul Valéry 28 November 2017 – 25 February 2018 .Orsay .28 November 2017-25 February 2018.Orsay
the Little Art Seeker loves Degas and was happy to discover a very original exhibition dedicated to the painter of the ballet and ballerinas through a very interesting prism:the art of drawing.
If you visit Paris in the weeks to come,run to Orsay and discover the gorgeous artworks produced by this prolific artist though drawing and the use of pastels.
The exhibition’s title:Degas,Dance, Drawing, a tribute to Degas and ¨Paul Valery, enhances the friendship between Degas,( the museum celebrates the centenary of his death on 27 September 2017,and the writer and philosopher Paul Valery.
The two men were closed friends during 20 years and Valery considered Degas as a real genius and wrote a very beautiful and poetic essay over the processus of creation which gave its name to the exhibition.
The exhibition follows the idea that the two men were both interested by the movement of forms for Degas and of ideas for Valery.It shows how the two men met through common acquaintances among whom Julie Manet,daughter of the impressionist painter Berthe Morizot.
Degas was known for being a grumpy man,a kind of misanthrope who hated scribblers but was seduced by the young man’s talent!
Degas had written himself beautiful sonnets and in the meantime Valery produced moving sketchbooks with acurate drawings ,testifying for a real interest in the art of drawing.
Degas realized from 1895 to the beggining of the 20th century, a series of portraits of his relatives.
They include Mallarmé, Renoir,Julie Manet’s cousins the Gobillard.
On the picture below one recognize Renoir seated and Mallarmé standing meanwhile Degas’ silhouette appears behind the device .Paul Valery received this beautiful picture from Degas and considered it as the most beautiful portrait of the writer.
As soon as Valery met Degas,he decided that he would wrote a book and started noting ideas inspired by their meetings and the artist’s words in his notebooks.However it took him twenty years to submit a proposal for a book about Degas to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1929.
Vollard had met Degas in 1894,in his gallery rue Laffite .He acquired many artworks from the artist ,many of them representing dancers and even wrote about him in the form of books of reproduction and illustrations.The book dubbed DDD by an abrevation of Degas,dance and drawing was finally published in 1937.
It’s a form of dialogue between the text and Degas’engravings and drawings .Its initial purchasers were Ida Rubistein and Pablo Picasso!!!
Degas made drawing the central focus of his art .When the items found in his studio in 1918 were sold,the public discovered the impressive volume of drawings accumulated by the artist since his youth.
Following the advice of Ingres,he began by copying the great masters of painting.During his sojourn in Italy betwwen 1856 and 1860 he kept studying classical antiquity,15th,16th and 17th century Italian artists.
He endlessly reproduced figures naked or wearing drapery ,in motion or in portrait.His drawing were both preparation for painting but also exercises to reach perfection.Valery wrote that he was »plagued by a pressing need for truth « .The Little Art Seeker admired these series of figures and the mastering of drawing through pastels or a simple black pencil.
« …I throw a handkerchief which I have crumpled ,onto the table.It doesn’t look like anything at all.The eye perceives it as a confusion of creases…I have to make intelligible a particular structure of an object which has no fixed structure. »Edgar Degas.
Degas loved to express the body language of his characters.He found them in real life,in the street,at the Opera ,in their workshops.
His characters seem totally absorbed by their tasks unaware in their most singular pose at a specific moment,always in motion and very expressive.Under his shrewd fingers the simple line became alive and transmitted his sitters’energy.
From 1880,onwards Degas showed a great interest for the classical theme of women toileting.Refusing to use the mythological pretext,he represented his models in a realistic way as seen through a keyhole in natural postures ,bathing,combing,washing or wiping off.To give us these exact figures ,the painter used pastels ,a merger of drawing and color and charcoal.
In 1898,Paul Valery visited Degas’exhibition at Durand Ruel .He was dazzled by the drawings displayed there and as a young man will speak about »an orange thing he found mind-blowing and yet in his book Degas,danse,dessin,he never mentions the starkling colors used by Degas in his pastels.
Moreover,he presents the painter as a Spartan,a man who draws his strength from his line and from the way he catches the bodies’impetus,seeing even movement in motionless bodies!
When you face these gorgeous drawings you don’t understand why Valery didn’t pay a tribute to the vibrant colors used by the painter in his quest to express the movement in dance.
The little Art Seeker loved these colorful freeze frames of an art which as said Degas is »the art of human movement ».
« Our limbs can perform a suite of figures which are linked one to the other,and whose frequency induces a form of exhilaration ranging from languor to delirium,from a sort of hypnotic abandonment to a sort of frenzy.The state of dance is created. »
If Dance is central to the work of Degas it is also a major feature of Paul Valery’s book..The writer searched endlessly to decipher the complicated mechanism of movements in the act of dancing.
He realized an impressive number of sculptures in wax which were discovered in his studio after his death and transformed into bronze.These dancer figures in movement are really impressive,giving us a sort of intemporal image of the bodies in movement.
The Little Art Seeker adored the famous sculpture representing the little ballerina with her real slippers and tutu and her ribbons in her hair.Dancing was a noble art who according to Degas deserved to be shown through a case as a real artwork.Very much criticized by art critics at the time it was displayed,the sculpture, is moving and shows the sculptor’s awe for dancers.
« Degas is one of the few painters to have given due emphasis to the floor.His boards are admirable.Sometimes he will capture a dancer from quite a height,so that her whole,form is projected against the plane of the stage like a crab on a beach »Paul Valery
This exhibition is really amazing and you won’t regret the time spent inside the beautiful musée d’Orsay.The Little Art Seeker warmly recommends it!!!