Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zebra, Good-bye to the 2014 A-Z Challenge!

Keeping a tradition, this was my "Z" from last year, this is JJ, a Zebra made of paper mache.  He is here again to say good-bye and thank you to all of those who made the A-Z Challenge possible, both the editors, assistants and all you bloggers out there.

Ah, but there is a French connection.  Since my theme was Edgar Degas, I needed something French.  JJ was created in Haiti, and his white coat was made with pages from a French book, then the stripes were painted over the pages.  Seeing the words in French made JJ special, I had to buy him and I did.  He is hanging in my kitchen over the doorway to the dining room.  And to further my penchant for naming inanimate objects, I looked up Haitian names online and saw, Jean-Jean or JJ.

The Internet is amazing--I learned so much about Edgar Degas but I have so much more to learn.  And I learned about other topics from all the A-Z Bloggers as well.  Now for the next few days I can leisurely read more blogs that I missed and read the familiar and new blogs I discovered.  Merci to all of you!

Jean-Jean. c. 2011,  Haiti. Artist unknown.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for "Madam X" by John Singer Sargent and Y is for "Yellow Dress" by Degas

The painting on the left is by John Singer Sargent, an American Artist, called "Portrait de Mm ***" although when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, it created a scandal.  Everyone knew who the subject was, a wealthy American who married a French banker.  Madam Gautreau was known for her beauty, and her interests were her wardrobe and her pleasures.  John Singer Sargent was entranced with her and convinced her to pose for him, although he struggled with finding the right pose and perspective and having M. Gautreau pose for him long enough to finish the painting.  Unfortunately, the painting caused a scandal.  The pose, the subject, (originally the right strap was off the shoulder), and the fact that he had not quite established himself in France, and the French, being the French, "trashed" the painting.  Sargent was devastated as was M. Gautreau.  Sargent left France a few years later, returned to England and never came back.  He considered the portrait his finest work and later sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

What led me to "Madame X" as the painting came to be known, was Edgar Degas's painting in 1890 of "Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."  The Madame X painting flashed in my mind.  Was Degas painting the same woman?  The nose, the red hair, the haughty expression seemed to be Madam Gautreau.  Degas rendered this in pastels, and you can imagine since there was such a scandal about Sargent's painting in 1884, Degas would have heard about it and perhaps even gone to see the exhibit.  Six years later, he created his own version.  In later years, French artists painted her, and even though she was wearing revealing gowns, the paintings caused no scandal.  

I was not able to find out any information about "Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."  This was my own idea.  What do you think?

"Portrait de Mm***" John Singer Sargent. 1883.
"Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for "Waiting" by Edgar Degas, c.1882.

This painting by Edgar Degas, actually done in pastel on beige laid paper, was not seen in public until 1983, before that date it was in a private collection.  Now it is owned jointly by the Norton Simon Museum and the J.P. Getty Museum in Pasadena, California.

Here we see a contrast between two figures, old and young, a ballerina and her chaperone.  "Waiting" is a thoughtful title, the ballerina waiting to go on the stage for performance or rehearsal, and her chaperone waiting for her to dance and then escort her home.  Meanwhile, the chaperone is drawing circles in the floor with her umbrella, probably bored by the whole thing.  And of course, this is a painting, like a novel, and could have been a composite from Degas's imagination.  But waiting could mean so many things, but the contrast in ages, as depicted by Degas, makes this painting an interesting one to study.

"Waiting" by Edgar Degas, c. 1882.  Pastel on paper.  Dover Press.  Mineola, New York.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for "Visit to a Museum, 1877-80. Edgar Degas

Who are the ladies in the oil, "Visit to a Museum" by Edgar Degas?  It is thought that they are the American artist, Mary Cassat, standing, and her sister, Lydia, who is sitting.

Mary Cassat, an American artist (1844-1926), lived and worked in Paris and was Edgar Degas's friend for 40 years.  Degas helped her and appreciated her work, which was not true for women artists of that time.  He was quoted as saying, "Most women paint as if they are trimming hats, but not you. . . ."  He taught her pastels and other techniques and helped her exhibit with the impressionists, the only American to do so.

The painting does not show us the painting that the women are studying, rather their faces looking at the art.  They are the focal point as you see Mary's serious but intent expression, her head tilted upward.  Her sister is holding the catalog, but looking at the painting also.   Again Degas has an unusual pose, you are drawn to the tilt of her head.  

Visit to a museum, 1877-80.  Edgar Degas.  Dover Press.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for "Up" or "Miss LaLa at the Cirque Fernando" by Degas

"Miss LaLa at the Cirque Fernando," by Edgar Degas, 1879 was a controversial painting when it was exhibited at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. And you can see why--the subject matter, the only circus painting that Degas did, the angle of the model, and the fact that the aerialist was of mixed race. So many questions for an art historian.  

Miss LaLa was the Prussian born star of a circus troupe that performed at in Cirque Fernando in Montmartre, Paris. In Paris, the circus was more Cirque du Soleil with jugglers, contortionists, and high wire acts.

Miss LaLa used a dental gripping device to help her use her teeth and you can see it in the painting, but it still is an amazing feat.  Degas drew many preparatory sketches before the final painting, and I think they can be seen, by permission at the Tate, London.  This painting is in the National Gallery there. He also had trouble painting the ceiling and asked an architect friend to help him with the angles of the vaulted ceiling.

There was some kind of a hoist used to pull her up, and some see in this painting many things, a kind of angelic image going to heaven.  But to Degas, this was in keeping with his many other paintings of women, strong, not passive, engaged in daily activities, dance, ironing, and being a performer in a circus---motion, motion, motion.

Miss LaLa  at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, Edgar Degas.  Dover Press
Olga Kaira's story is fascinating.  There is a blog that goes into more detail about her life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for "Three Dancers in Yellow Skirts." Edgar Degas.c 1899.

In this painting by Degas, we see three dancers waiting in the wings, one drinking water, the others lost in thought, but a tiny detail, the first dancer is in first position.

This is another photography angle painting.  Notice the left border is cut off and the dancers are caught informally.

The colors are so soft, no hard edges.  It almost looks like a pastel, and you are aware of shapes and colors.  The colors are perfect.  Quite a different kind of painting from my choice for "S." And if you click on the painting you can make it larger.

Three Dancers in Yellow Skirts.  Edgar Degas. 1899.  Oil on Canvas.  Dover Press

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for "Singer with a Glove" Edgar Degas 1878

All you artists out there and appreciators of art will enjoy this painting, which shows Degas at his best in the use of color and composition.  He must have been intrigued by the affect of artificial light on singers and ballet dancers, especially how up-lighting has a way of changing features like skin tone, etc.

In researching this painting, I came across this blog which discusses the composition and use of color in this painting, especially interesting is the description of how Degas used color and what our eyes see.  My question would be:  as an artist paints, does he consciously think about these things as he paints, or is it a sub-conscious?  I have added this blog address, so much better than my trying to paraphrase the words.  Color theory is fascinating, I will let this blog be my guest blogger. You have to copy and paste the blog address.

Singer with  a  Glove, 1878,  Edgar Degas,.  Pastel on canvas.   Dover Publications

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Racehorses at Longchamp 1873-1875, Edgar Degas

This small painting, 11x15 inches, c. 1873-1875, was purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1903, for $12,000,* which contradicts the written comment that Degas only sold one painting to a museum in his lifetime.  "The Cotton Market in New Orleans" was the other one. Although this painting was purchased from one of the several buyers of the work, it was not sold directly by Degas to the museum.

Degas painted more race-track paintings than ballerina paintings, 91 works in this category.  His paintings of horses really show his mastery of horse anatomy, yet done with such a light hand and again, from a different angle. .

Degas enjoyed painting jockeys and horses and would select individual jockeys and rearrange them into his own compositions.He enjoyed sketching at Longchamps, one of his favorite places to sketch.

Longchamps was and is a  racetrack in Paris, in the Bois de Boulogne, a beautiful park.  And if you are in Paris, and it's  beautiful day, you might want to visit.  The entrance fee is 4 euros, you could bring a picnic lunch and even try your hand at betting.

*$12,000 is worth $240,000 today.   

Racehorses at Longchamps. c 1873-1875. Oil on Canvas.  Edgar Degas.  Dover Publications.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quotes from Monsieur Degas

M. Degas's thoughts on Art:

"A picture is a thing which requires as much knavery, as much malice, and as much vice as the perpetration of a crime.  Make it untrue and add an accent of truth."

"Work a great deal at evening effects, lamplight, candlelight, etc.   The intriguing thing is not to show the source of light but the effects of the lighting."

"Hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience, but these women of mine are honest, simple folk, unconcerned by any other interests than those involved in their physical condition.  Here is another; she is washing her feet.  It's as if you looked through a key-hole."

Thoughts on the Impressionists: 

 Degas never considered himself an Impressionist. He thought of himself as a realist. And he worked indoors, not outdoors like the impressionists.

This is what he thought of Monet's work:  "Why I met Monet himself there, (At an exhibition) and I said to him, 'Let me get out of here.  Those reflections in the water hurt my eyes! His pictures were always too draughty for me.  If it had been any worse I should have had to turn up my coat collar."

"If I were the government, I would have a special brigade of gendarmes to keep an eye on artists who paint landscapes from nature.  Oh, I don't mean to kill anyone, just a little dose of bird-shot now and then as a warning."

And a glimpse of his personal life:  "I marry? Oh, I could never bring myself to do it.  I would be in mortal misery all my life for fear my wife might say, 'That's a pretty little thing,' after I had finished a picture.'

Degas believed that an artist could not have a personal life.

Self Portrait: Degas Lifting His Hat , c1863. (age 29).  

*All these quotes are  Thank you wikipedia!

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pedicure by Edgar Degas, 1873.

The Pedicure painting, Oil on canvas, 24 by 18 inches, painted in 1873 by Edgar Degas.  And that, bloggers, is all I have been able to find out.  So, we study the painting.  It seems to be that of a young girl who is having her toenails cut, by a gentleman.  Is he a doctor? or?  She is wrapped modestly in a sheet and though she is sitting on a couch, because of the bureau behind her, this might be her bedroom. 

The Pedicure. Oil on Canvas. 1873.  Edgar Degas.  Dover Publications. Inc. Mineola, N.Y.

This is one of those "key hole" pictures.  We are looking at this scene as through a key hole. She might be ill or?  A rather odd subject for a painting, but if Degas himself said that he liked to paint subjects especially women, in familiar and typical attitudes, this would fit. The light shining through the sheet is what makes this painting so serene.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Woman/ Girl with Opera Glasses by Edgar Degas. c.1866-68.

Woman with Opera Glasses was painted by Edgar Degas c. 1866-68.  Since this almost fit the "O" catagory, I decided to use it from my DVD collection from Dover Press.  In trying to find out something about the painting I stumbled upon this artist's blog, which at first glance was about copying this painting.  As I scrolled down I saw the photo of the work and then her beginning sketches, and then. . .the sad words, her little boy who had Cockayne Syndrome, died during the time she worked on "Girl with Opera Glasses."

There is a sweet photo of Knox in the background, watching his mother as she works.

One of the surprises of this challenge, is what you may uncover, through others or just your own research.  And I noticed that two of our famous bloggers, discovered her many weeks ago.

I am adding her blog address.  I would not presume to paraphrase what she wrote about Knox.

Woman with Opera Glasses, Edgar Degas, 1866-68.  Oil on cardboard.  Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for "Nude Combing Her Hair," by Edgar Degas (without the illustration)

"Nude Combing Her Hair."  1886-1888.  Degas was also known for his luscious paintings of nudes.  But in some ways, there was a difference.  He painted women doing their everyday tasks, dressing, bathing, washing their feet, ironing, etc.  This quote explains his philosophy, "Hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience; but these women of mine are honest, simple folk, unconcerned by any other interests than those involved in their physical condition.  Here is as if you looked through a keyhole."

In "Nude Combing Her Hair,"  Degas used pastels on paper mounted on board. He rubbed in so many layers of pastels that the pigment stands out from the work, almost like little hairs.  Two versions of this work can be seen, one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Stage Museum.

Because I was not sure about displaying a painting of a nude for this challenge, I thought I would just write a bit about his nude paintings and leave it up to readers of this blog post to look them up on Wikipedia.

The keyhole remark is one to keep in mind when looking at Degas's paintings of women.  They are not always in the most flattering of poses, but just themselves.  In the nude paintings the observer is a voyeur, not supposed to be there, but there he is.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas, c.1884

Degas and the American artist Mary Cassatt were friends.  Her struggle, besides trying to support herself as an artist, she was a woman working in a man's profession--art.  She shared with Degas the opinion that an artist could not have a personal life but had to devote his life to art.  Degas helped her, taught her how to work in pastels and admired her talent, but not directly. This portrait of her shows her with a half smile and bent forward as if she were listening.  And notice the touches of white in the painting -- perfect.

But, this is a quote from Degas after seeing some of her etchings, "I will not admit that a woman can draw like that."  Another quote,"Be sure to give the same expression to a person's face that you give to his body."
Mary Cassatt.  1884.  Edgar Degas.  Oil  on Canvas.  Dover  Publications, Inc.  Mineola, New York.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lorenzo Pagans and Auguste de gas, 1871-1872. by Edgar de Gas

Dover  Publications, Inc.  Mineola, N.Y.
During the 19th and 20th century, in Europe, America and other countries, the custom of having recitals in one's home was popular.  This particular painting features the tenor, Lorenzo Pagans with his guitar and Degas's father, Auguste de Gas (using the old spelling of Degas).  The concert was in Degas's home and one of many through the years.  Edgar's mother in Degas's early years would sing opera, during these recitals at home. Since she died when Edgar was young, I wonder what thoughts Edgar had while painting this scene.  His father, age 64, in the background seems lost in thought, perhaps thinking of his late wife.

Performance in one's home, small scale or big scale, a time for family members or others to share a talent, musical or dramatic, goes back through historical time.  Remember in "Downton Abbey,"  there was the episode where Kiri te Kawana performed before invited family and guests?  And the scene, also in "Downton Abbey," where the daughters sang for the soldiers who were recuperating at Downton.  

Years ago when I was staying at a B&B in Bath, England, the two ladies who ran the B&B informed me that there would be some entertainment Friday evening and I was invited.  What I did not know is that I was expected to participate.  I honestly do not remember what I did, I have no talent, but I think I sang something.

This post is participatory--have you ever been part of a recital?  What was your "act"?  Details? Please share.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kith. Degas's Friends, 1885.

Kith, "acquaintances and relatives," (ME word, 1350-1400).  The American Heritage Dictionary.

Degas had many friends whom he sketched and painted over the years.  This 
group met at Dieppe on the Normandy coast in the summer of 1885.  Degas chose to paint them together but with an unusual placement, each one looking at a different direction.  They were writers and artists.  One, Walter Sickert, the full figure on the left, was an English artist known for his avante guard style.  Degas influenced Sickert to paint indoors, and not be affected by the "tyranny of Nature." 

In researching this painting, I discovered that there was an unusual reference to Walter Sickert.  Patricia Cornwall, an American crime writer, was convinced through her research that  Sickert was "Jack the Ripper," and wrote a book about him called, Portrait of a Killer, Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed.  She spent millions of dollars to purchase some of his art, studying it closely, trying to make the case.  There had been three books published previously that maintained that Sickert was Jack the Ripper.  In 2004 The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography dismissed the charge as fantasy.  (Wikipedia was the reference).

Edgar Degas.  Six Friends of the Artist. 1885.  Pastel on paper.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jockey by Edgar Degas, c, 1881-1885.

Another of Degas's subjects were Jockeys and horses and always he was experimenting with his composition.  This includes unusual close-ups, positions of the models, and we understand that Degas was influenced by the new medium, photography.

In this painting, this is not the race itself, but the moments before the race. Degas has pushed all the horses and jockeys together and painted a horses neck in the middle which makes the viewer look again to make sure that it is a horses neck since the head is not shown.  And another technique, none of the jockeys is looking in the same direction.  Confusion and uncertainty before the race seems to be the theme.

Jockeys, c. 1881-1885.  Edgar Degas.  Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for "Woman Ironing" by Edgar Degas, 1869

Degas did many paintings and sketches of women ironing.  This preparatory sketch is not like the "pretty paintings" of ballerinas and some of his other women subjects.  I am also including a finished oil of the same subject. 

A laundress was at the bottom of the social scale in France in the 19th century.  It was difficult work (an understatement), did not pay well, and in those conditions, heating the irons on a coal stove, the physicality of pressing hard on the starched cotton for very long hours, caused all kinds of health problems.

Why this subject for Degas?  This was the time of Emile Zola's stories of the lower classes in France -- pithy, sympathetic?  Class distinctions are very apparent, lower classes are not attractive, even morals are questioned in art and literature.   Questioned, criticized or brought to light?  

Contrast these paintings with Degas's painting of his grandfather.  

You can make these images larger by clicking on them.

Woman Ironing.  1869.  Charcoal, white chalk, and pastel on paper.,Dover publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.
Women Ironing. 1884-86.  Oil on Canvas..  Dover publications, Mineola, New York.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for "Portrait of Hilaire de Gas." by Degas 1857

This portrait of Degas's grandfather is so elegant, yet tender in the way that Degas painted his head.  Notice the sparse hair with the skin showing through, almost like a photograph.  And the painting of the hands deserve a second look.  He died in 1858 at the age of 88, a year after this portrait was painted.  

Hilaire de Gas, born in Orleans, France in 1770, fled to Italy from France during the French Revolution.  His family was in banking, but he also, along with other family members, had other business interests which accounted for the family's moderate wealth.  

There is an American connection.  Although Degas's father, Hilaire's son, was born in Italy, his mother was born in New Orleans.  She unfortunately died when Degas  was 12.  Both parents traveled back and forth between Italy, Paris, and New Orleans, where the males of the family were involved with various businesses, but both of them, grandfather and father,  had a major influence on Degas's life.

One line from Wikipedia says that Degas's portraits had "psychological complexity with their portrayal of human isolation."

Seeing this portrait, putting yourself in Degas's place, all his memories of his grandfather had to have been poured into the canvas.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Portrait of Giovannina Bellelli by Edgar Degas

Drawing, drawing, drawing; so much a part of Degas' life as he did sketches upon sketches of the paintings he was to create later.  Sketches help artists decide how to compose their later paintings, what to include, what not to include.  Drawing with pencil is different than using a brush.  It's a way to get your creative thoughts on paper, like a rough draft in writing.

This pencil portrait of Giovanninna Bellelli is a prelude to a larger painting of the whole family who lived in Italy.  Giovanninna is a cousin of Degas and while he visited the family, he made many sketches in preparation of his larger painting of the whole family.  I am including the family painting, which has so many psychological interpretations that I decided to feature her portrait to show Degas' wonderful artistry, and show her in the family painting, but leave it up to you to investigate the psychology of the larger painting if you wish.

Meanwhile, this is the one that I wanted to share in my blog.
Portrait of Giovannnina Bellelli. c. 1858-59.

The Bellelli Family. c. 1860  Giaovannina is on the right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for "Fallen Jockey"

F is for "Fallen Jockey," painted by Edgar Degas in 1896.

This is a puzzling painting in many ways.  Steeplechase, horse racing over obstacles, was first introduced in France in 1830's.  In this very rough sport, falls are common, some fatal.

The fallen jockey does not look alive, he looks almost puppet-like.  This painting was worked and re-worked over many years.  An art critic, Michael Fried, writing in The Three Penny Review in 2007, after careful study, saw in the painting the painter Edouard Manet, a good friend of Degas, who died of complications of syphilis years before.  Manet's left leg was amputated (the jockey's left leg is bent); the jockey's right hand is not detailed; but the riding crop could represent the artist's brush, never to be used again, as it is out of reach.  This version is unfinished and was never sold, too grim for most collectors, and remained in Degas' studio.

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."  
                                                                         --Edgar Degas

Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for the Portrait of Edmund Duranty

Portrait of Edmund Duranty by Degas, 1879.

Edmund Duranty, a wealthy literary and art critic, was a friend of Degas. Degas drew three preliminary sketches of this portrait, the sketches of which can be seen on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's web site.
 Interestingly, this was done in watercolor and pastels on linen.

Duranty was one of the first to write favorably about the Impressionists, although he called the art "The New Paintings."  He liked the new, fresh approach of these artists, away from the painters who painted traditional subjects, religious and classical.

And if you thought that these gentlemen lived quiet lives as they painted and wrote, their lives did have passion.  Duranty had a duel with swords in 1870 against the painter, Manet, whose work he criticized.  Manet apparently slapped him and the duel was on.  It took place in the woods, St. Germaine, near Paris; Manet's seconds was Emile Zola. The police report stated that the first encounter was so violent, that the swords buckled.  Duranty was wounded in his right chest, the seconds declared that the quarrel was settled and ended the duel, and surprisingly the men remained friends.  The encounter became famous with a song written about it and sung in the local cafes.  Duranty died one year after this portrait was completed.  Later complications from sword wounds?
The pose in this portrait is interesting, with the two fingers pressed against the left eye, and to underline Duranty's literary background, the display of books, books and more books behind him.

(Excerpt from:  Edouard Manet, A Rebel in a Frock Coat. Wikipedia. Dover Publications, Mineola, New York.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Edgar Degas

Self -Portrait in a Soft Hat, 1857  (23 years old)  
Edgar Degas, was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, July 19, 1834, in Paris, the oldest of five children. He changed his name to Degas, during the 1870's.  His mother was American from New Orleans, his father a French banker.  His father introduced him to the world of museums, galleries, and art exhibits during his younger years.

His father wanted him to study law, but after several months, he decided that law was not for him but art was, and began what would be called difficult training in classic art in Italy and then France where he studied at the Louvre. At first he painted and studied and copied the 15th and 16th century masters, but then evolved his style, a classic painter of modern life.  Not only did he paint in various mediums, he sculpted.  Renoir called Degas, "the world's greatest living sculptor," even though he only exhibited one sculpture during his lifetime. After his death, his sculptures were cast in bronze.

His long career, over 60 years, showed differences in style and approach, although, he always sketched his subjects first and then finished in his studio, sometimes painting his works over and over again until he was satisfied.  He did not consider himself an impressionist although his work is classified as such, because he did not paint 'Plein Air" (outside) like his fellow impressionist artists. "No art was 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."

In 1873, Degas learned that his brother Rene had incurred huge business debts.  Degas sold his house and his extensive personal art collection of other artists, to pay off his brother's debts and save his family's reputation.  For the first time in his life he had to depend on the sale of his paintings. His greatest artistic decade was in the 1870's, perhaps due to the pressure, but what a treasure for all of us to enjoy all these years later.

Becoming more and more isolated in his later years, due to loss of eyesight and his belief that artists should not have a personal life, he became more reclusive and died in 1917.

( Dover Publications, Inc.  Mineola, New York and Wikipedia)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for "The Cotton Office in New Orleans"

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."  Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas lived in New Orleans  for five months where his family was in the  cotton brokerage business. Unfortunately, the business went bankrupt.  What is interesting is that Degas painted his brothers in this painting as if everything was fine  One brother Musson is examining cotton for its quality and another, Renee, is reading about the bankruptcy in The Picayane News.  Everyone seems quite calm.  Degas returned to Paris and exhibited "The Cotton Office" in the Second Impressionist Show in 1876, and two years later in 1878 he sold this painting to a museum in Paris, the Musee de Beaux, the only sale to a museum in his lifetime.  

The formality of the dress, hats, ties, white shirts, serious, stoic, a bit unflappable, but then if Degas were  painting this to sell, which he was, this is the way he would have painted it,  everything orderly and serious.

Looking at the painting, the composition, the colors, the contrast between black and white are perfect.  Notice the edge of painting on the right, instead of making the room continue, you don't see the rest of the hand or the desk.  Photography was an influence for Degas, as were Japanese prints which used unusual angles and unusual points of view.

The Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas, 1873
Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, N.Y.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Ballet Rehearsal

"Ballet Rehearsal on the Stage."   1874.  Edgar Degas
Dover Publications, INC.  Minola. New York

Interesting to study this painting with its limited color palate, and the different actions of the dancers on stage.  Still, the tones of the painting are
lovely.  The foreground dancers are waiting in the wings, relaxing, while the others are dancing in front.  If you look carefully, there is a man watching from one of the lower boxes.  And I read that Degas reworked the dancers legs and you can see an outline of a foot in the left lower half.

So, why put the gentleman in the painting?  For intrigue, for a distant focus point or?  

Always, Degas had these unusual angles, not the conventional straight-on point of view, but I read that he was very interested in Japanese painting and that had given him the idea of the odd angle from which to sketch and paint his figures. More on Degas on the "D" day of the challenge.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Blog Challenge+A is for Absinthe

        Dover  Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.

Absinthe, Oil on Canvas, 1876
Edgar Degas

French Artist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), said that "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

When looking at the painting, this is what I saw.  Others, especially from that time period saw something entirely different.

She looks unhappy, sitting with her husband, her drink before her.  Notice that her drink is cloudy which identifies it as absinthe. Such a sad face Degas painted.  Her husband is paying no attention to her as he watches others around the room. Degas painted her so delicately, while the husband is roughly put together, hat askew, untied tie, hair not combed.  Perhaps he just slammed his hat on his head while she begged to go out.

This is my version of the painting.  In reality, the models were Ellen Andree, an actress, and Marcellin Desboutin, a painter and print-maker.  Edgar Degas sketched his ideas while viewing his subjects, but finished his paintings in his studio.

When this painting was first exhibited, it was called ugly, disgusting, and the persons depicted to be degraded and uncouth.  Degas even had to publicly state that the two models were not alcoholics as this was also a criticism.  Social conflict, public morals, so many different views of what the painter had in mind, when in reality perhaps,  the two models had interesting faces and Degas chose to paint them in a cafe setting.

Absinthe, a dark green liquor, originally was made from worm-wood, herbs and spices.  In a stylized ceremony, water is added drop by drop through a sugar cube which is suspended on a slotted spoon.  It was called "The Green Fairy" as some of the ingredients caused hallucinations in the past.   You can purchase it in specialized liquor stores and order Absinthe in some restaurants and bars.  

What do you see in this painting?