Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Impressionism (pt. 31)

Degas also took interest in drawing and sculpting, which distinguished him from other Impressionists.  He was concerned with the line, form, and movement of the human body, particularly the female body.  After his death, dozens of wax and clay models were found lying around his studio that demonstrated the artist's devotion to detail in depicting the female body.  The statuettes were all of the female figure in various poses, and these were Degas' form of practicing his craft for a painting he was going to make.  Since the artist gradually went blind toward the end of his life, sculpture reinforced his methods in a physical way that he could continue even on into his old age.  It was rare, however, that the artist should publically submit a sculpture of his to a salon exhibition, but in the case of The Little Dancer we have an exception.
Here we see a young ballerina dancer who, according to the sculpture's title, is "aged fourteen."  The sculpture is unique for, among other reasons, its adornment; Degas has creatively dressed the little dancer in a bodice, skirt, and hair ribbon.  In the case of her shoes, the bronze has been tinted.  The girl is standing in her finishing pose, with her head held up high and proud upon the completion of her set.  Her arms are folded back gracefully, and one foot steps out forward in decisiveness.  Everything about her demeanor implies success, and yet the art critics of the 1881 Paris Salon were less than impressed, complaining that the dancer was ugly and comparable with a monkey.  This was not the image of a pretty ballerina they wanted, but for Degas, sculpting her facial features and body figure the way he did was a form of Realism, about getting as accurate as possible to the way people really look.

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