by Sarah Kirby
Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his works attributed to the Impressionism movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While he painted a variety of subjects, a possible favorite, judging from the sheer amount, were his dancers. Degas and other Impressionists were extremely fascinated by movement, a quality that is achieved by painting the subjects with their limbs outstretched as in the middle of a routine.
Degas studied many groups of dancers, particularly ballerinas. Through his studies he observed the beauty, grace and strength that dancers possess. There are many paintings of the dancers stretching or preparing to begin a performance. They are natural views of a quiet observer, not the view from the center audience. Another important quality in his work is the ability to depict one swift and specific moment in time. The dancers were continuously moving, but his brush captured a split second. His brushstrokes are visible and appear to have been handled very quickly, yet remain very fluid and graceful which complements that same quality in the dancer.
One of the most endearing qualities of Edgar Degas’ work is his choice of subject matter. By making the decision to depict dancers as one of his most popular subjects, Degas was recognizing dance as another important art form. In this way, both visual and performing arts are blended together, each appreciated for their beauty and skill. At the National Museum of Dance we are working to keep that combination of visual and performing arts alive.
Our Art in the Foyer exhibit, currently featuring the photography of Jordan Matter, combines the musicality and movement of dance with the artistry and eye that is integral to photography. Come experience the beauty of Matter’s photographs, and our other exhibits, too, at the National Museum of Dance!