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.  https://thecircusgirlblog.wordpress.com/tag/olga-kaira/

17 comments:

  1. I can't imagine having the talent to paint like that. I even love the colors – and that I might be able to mimic. The style, the mood, or the precision – no way. But I enjoyed looking at it and admiring it. I'm glad you posted this. I can see that he does choose strong women in his composition. Very nice.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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  2. Thanks, Debi: It was an interesting painting to research. And the story of the performer is amazing. She even lifted a cannon ball with her teeth!

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  3. Oh, art. Must come back and read whole series once the crazy co-hosting is over. I loved reading the explanation - history AND art lover, so what could be better than art history? So different from math ;-)
    I've always enjoyed Degas, though I know it's somewhat cliched, Monet is my favorite and has been since I was a child and understood anything. Farmor had a copy of one of his waterlily paintings and I just adored it. My sister got it, but I got the Renoir copy of the girl with the watering can. It's a centerpiece in my living room.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

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    1. Hi Tina: Thanks for your comments. I have loved doing this challenge. I would not have found out what I did about Degas if I was not "forced" to do it. :)

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  4. So this was the origins of Cirque du Soleil! Not at all surprised, since the painting hints of the future. When did the art world finally accept Degas as artistic genius?

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    1. I don't think that strength acrobatics is done anymore, but just think of the kettle ball they use in gyms now. Degas had a bit of a bumpy road with the appreciation of his art, but he was not an easy person to be around, I read. And always, because of his wealth and his family, he had a little of that superiority attitude, and never had to live poor.

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  5. You found a gorgeous painting for the letter U. the colors, the drama, and what one can imagine people of the day thought of how exposed this woman was. And also how brave and talented. I love this one. Thank you for coming up with it, no pun intended.

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  6. Thanks, Inger. I can't imagine how it must have been to be there in Montmartre, watching the performance, "And here we have the amazing, Miss LaLa, etc."--in French of course.

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  7. Nous vous presentons Mademoiselle Lala. Just for kicks. This is quite a picture isn't it? Strong women certainly. Strong teeth too. Didn't realise Degas was wealthy, maybe I missed that.

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  8. It sounds so much better in French, Jo. Thank you. (Another regret of mine, did not learn French).

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  9. When I was 15 I spent a month with a French family their daughter stayed with us. Plus lots of other trips, being in the UK it isn't very far.

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  10. Perfect way to learn, to actually hear it around you. The month there when you were 15 must have been magical.

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  11. I've seen this painting before on the net, but now, knowing its background, I'm beginning to really appreciate it.

    Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2014, My Latest post

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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    1. Thank you. I am learning so much myself.

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  12. Too bad people were upset about it at first. The colors are fantastic. :)

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  13. I think Miss LaLa will be my favorite. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. "Up" is such a nice word for the letter "U".
    The circus must have been indoors or if it is a moving or visiting circus ( I am trying to translate from my language so please excuse me.), the walls are really detailed.

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