Feel Art Again: "Dance Class"

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Dance Class.jpg

On this day in 1892, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker, was performed for the first time in St. Petersburg, Russia. To celebrate this historical ballet event, let's take a look at one of Edgar Degas' famous ballet paintings, "The Dance Class."

1. Born into a moderately wealthy family, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas began expressing his artistry at a young age. By age 18, he had turned a room in his house into an artist's studio and was making copies in the Louvre. He still registered at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in 1853, but he didn't put much effort into the work.

2. In 1864, while copying in the Louvre, Degas met Edouard Manet. Manet is believed to be an influencing factor in Degas' move to more contemporary subjects.

3. Degas enlisted in the National Guard in 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. Degas' eyesight was found to be defective; he worried about his eye problems for the rest of his life. His last twenty years were spent nearly blind. As a result, he worked more with pastels, in increasingly broader strokes; he also sculpted into his late 70s.

4. The only of Degas' works to be purchased by a museum during his lifetime was "The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans." He painted it during an extended trip to New Orleans that began in 1872.

5. Degas exhibited in all but one of the Impressionist Exhibitions of the 1870s and 1880s and is considered one of the founding impressionists. Degas, though, preferred to be called a realist. According to Andrew Forge, an art historian, Degas "deplored the scandal that surronded the exhibitions."

6. In the late 19th century, Degas took up photography as a hobby. Since he was fond of drawing and painting motion, especially horses and dancers, photography enabled him to accurately capture action for his artwork.

7. Flying Saucer, one of our readers, had wondered if perhaps there had been any impropriety between Degas and the young dancers he studied. Approximately half of Degas' work depicts dancers, yet despite the time he spent with them and the extensive sketches he did, I found no mention of any inappropriate relations between Degas and any dancers. Unlike many artists, Degas had few to no mistresses and never married. He was much more interested in his work than in women.

A larger version of the artwork is available here.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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December 18, 2007 - 6:14am
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