Posts Tagged ‘ballet dancers

15
Dec
17

Book: Photographs from ‘Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit’ [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] 1928 Part 1

December 2017

Authors: Hermann and Marianne Aubel

Publisher: Karl Robert Langewiesche Vlg. Königstein, 1928. 112 pages, numerous illustrations. Pictures of Isadora Duncan, Nijinski, Anna Pavlova, Alexander Sacharoff, Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff, Die Schwestern Wiesenthal, Tamara Karsavina, La Argentina, Ellen Petz, Niddy Impekoven, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Palucca, Harald Kreutzberg, Javanische Tanzgruppe.
Language: German

 

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes c. 2000

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes, England
c. 2000
Photograph taken by my mother

 

 

I have always loved dancing… it comes from the soul. I have danced since 1975 – pre-disco, through disco, high energy, new romantics, soul, trance, techno and more. I still go out dancing today. While this is a different kind of dance, notably free dance, all forms of dance are a connection to music, earth, cosmos. A connection to the earliest of human beings dancing round an open fire.

This is a book I bought on the Internet for $12. I have scanned the photographs and given them a digital clean. The costumes are fabulous, the poses exquisite, exotic, and joyous. The silhouettes and shapes created are just glorious. The photographs usually have low depth of field, the figures “caught” in front of contextless backgrounds. But as Grete Wiesenthal’s assistant Maria Josefa Schaffgotsch observes, the time freeze of the photograph is the antithesis of free dance:
.

“Grete Wiesnethal’s primary concern was to overcome as far as possible the unavoidable static element of classical dance and to dissolve everything that smacked of a pose in a never-ending stream of movement. The flowing, swinging, wavelike three-four rhythm, transforming Strauss’s waltzes into movement – that was her particular art, that was what made her world famous.”1

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Many of the photographs work against the nature of the medium, and the idea of posing for the camera, to capture the fleeting expressiveness of dance. Just look at the ecstatic shape created in Hugo Erfurth’s Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters] (c. 1928, below). Indeed, the language of spiritual revelation!

My favourites are the photographs of Sent M’Ahesa and Nijinski. But honestly, they are all glorious. The photographs in this book, “The Artistic Dance of Our Time,” represent the cutting edge of dance, art, and photography in 1928. It is so nice to seem them now.

Marcus

 

  1. Andrea Amort. “Free Dance in Interwar Vienna,” in Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman (eds.,). Interwar Vienna: Culture Between Tradition and Modernity. Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2009, p. 123.

 

Free dance

Free dance is a 20th-century dance form that preceded modern dance. Rebelling against the rigid constraints of classical ballet, Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis (with her work in theatre) developed their own styles of free dance and laid the foundations of American modern dance with their choreography and teaching. In Europe Rudolf Laban, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and François Delsarte developed their own theories of human movement and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance.

Free dance was prolific in Central and Eastern Europe, where national schools were created, such as the School of Musical Movement (Heptachor), in Russia, and the Orkesztika School, in Hungary. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors) Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher) 'Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]' 1928

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors)
Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher)
Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]
1928
Book front cover

 

 

Elvira (Munich)
Isadora Duncan
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 1
Published 1928

 

 

“Wir sehen das Ziel der Tanzkunst und jeder Kunst darin, eine Sprache geistiger Offenbarung zu sein, aus der Natur heraus sich äubernd und mit ihr verbunden.”

“We see the goal of dance and every art as being a language of spiritual revelation, external to and connected with it.”

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Hermann and Marianne Aubel

 

 

Vielleicht auf keinem Gebiet kunstlerischer Entfaltung haben die letzten Jahrsehute ein solches Strebennach Weiterentwicklung gebracht, wie auf dem Gebiete der Tanzkunst. Sie ist, als letztes Zile der Arbeit an der menschilchen Bewegung, mehr und mehr mit in den Mittelpunkt des allgeneinen Interesses gerückt und übt so eine gröbere Wirkung auf breitere Kreis aus, als sie es noch vor 20, ja vor 10 Jahen vermochte. Eine neue Form des bewegten Ausdrucks will sich bilden.

Perhaps in no field of artistic development, the last years have brought about such a development as in the field of dance art. It is, as the last part of the work on the human movement, more and more pushed into the centre of general interest, and thus exerts a greater effect on a wider circle than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. A new form of moving expression wants to form itself. (Introduction, V)

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 4
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 5
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Grete Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Grete Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 6
Published 1928

 

 

Grete Wiesenthal (1885-1970)

Austrian dancer and choreographer. She and her sister Elsa (1887-967) were both dancers with the Vienna Court Opera Ballet but she left in 1904 to choreograph and perform her own work, which was accompanied primarily by waltz music (Chopin and J. Strauss). She proved so popular that her sisters Elsa and Berta joined her in works that communicated a (then) revolutionarily ecstatic response to waltz rhythms. The sisters moved to Berlin where they performed together until 1910, after which Grete worked independently, choreographing and performing in vaudeville, film, and opera around Europe and the US. The Grete Wiesenthal Dance group (1945-56) toured the world and two of its members subsequently staged her dances for the Vienna State Opera Ballet. …

The “ambassador of waltz,” began life as a dancer within the traditions of ballet; entered the corps (1901) and advanced to coryphée (1902); with sister Elsa, began choreographing new ways of movement and expression through dance and allied with Secession circle of innovators; with Elsa and sister Berta, came to prominence as the Wiesenthal sisters at Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (1908); in Berlin, danced with sisters at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater; danced role of 1st elf in Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Munich’s Artist’s Theater (1909); with sisters, performed at London’s Hippodrome and at Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris (1909).

Made solo debut in Berlin in pantomime Sumurùn, produced by Reinhardt (1910); made US debut at Winter Garden in NY (1912); created role of Kitchen Boy in Reinhardt’s Stuttgart production of Der Bürger als Edelmann, with music by Richard Strauss; appeared in “Grete Wiesenthal Series” of films (1913–14): Kadra Sâfa, Erlkönigs Tochter and Die goldne Fliege; following WWI, opened dancing school (1919); returned to Vienna stage at Staatsoper (State Opera House), in lead role of her ballet Der Taugenichts in Wien (The Ne’er-Do-Well in Vienna, 1927); remained active professionally, appearing in solo dance concerts and tours, including a return to NY (1933); appointed professor of dance at Vienna’s Academy for Music and the Performing Arts (1934), then served as director of artistic dance section (1945-52).

After WWII, her work enjoyed a renaissance in Austria, especially the dances she created for various Salzburg Festival productions; wrote autobiography, Der Aufstieg (The Way Upwards, 1919), which appeared as Die ersten Schritte (The First Steps, 1947); also published a novel, Iffi: Roman einer Tänzerin (Iffi: Novel of a Dancer, 1951); best remembered for having transformed the Viennese waltz from a monotonous one-two-three movement, performed by smiling dancers laced into corsets, into an ecstatic experience, performed by dancers with unbound hair and swinging dresses.

Text from the Gustav Mahler website

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Else Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Else Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 7
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 10
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 11
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa (born August 17, 1883 in Riga as Else von Carlberg – November 19, 1970 in Stockholm ) was a expressive dancer, who worked in Germany until the 1920s. She also wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.

She was portrayed by Max Beckmann, Bernhard Hoetger, Dietz Edzard and Adolf Münzer. The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis saw her dance in Berlin in 1923 (“She danced only once and then returned to her Munich villa”) and wrote to his wife: “Since I saw Sent M’Ahesa dancing I do not want any other kind of dance, I saw its highest form.” (Wikipedia)

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 12
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 13
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 14
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 15
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 16
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 17
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa

“Such confusion of identity did not apply in the case of Sent M’Ahesa (Elsa von Carlberg 1893-1970), whom audiences persisted in identifying with Egyptian dances (though her dance aesthetic  included images from other ancient o exotic cultures). She performed all her dances solo. Born in Latvia, she went to Berlin in 1907 with her sister to study Egyptology but became so enchanted with ancient Egyptian art and artifacts that she decided to pursue her interest through dance rather than scholarship… Under he name of Sent M’Ahesa, she presented a program of Egyptian dances in Munich in December 1909 (Ettlinger). From then until the mid-1920s, she achieved fame for her exceptionally dramatic dances dominated by motifs from ancient Egyptian iconography. …

Her dances always functioned in relation to intricate, highly decorative costumes of her own design, so that it appeared as if she chose movements for their effect upon her costume.  In her moon goddess (or Isis) dance, she attached large, diaphanous cloth wings to her black-sleeved arms… Sent M’Ahesa often exposed her flesh below the navel, but I have yet to find a picture of her in which she exposed her hair, so keen was she on the use of wigs, helmets, caps, scarves, kerchiefs, tiaras, masks, and crowns. In her peacock dance, she attached a large fan of white feather plumes to her spine. In other dances, she draped herself with tassels, decorative aprons, double sashes, layers of jeweled necklaces, and arm, wrist, and ankle bracelets. Only in her Indian dances did she wear anything resembling pants. …

… her body was wonderfully svelte, and her face displayed a cool, chiseled beauty, I think, rather, that she sought to decontextualise female beauty and erotic feeling from archetypal images of them originating in cultures other than her own or her audience’s; she sought to dramatize a tension between a modern female body and old images of female desire and desirability. Ettlinger, in 1910, was perhaps more accurate when he remarked that

“Sent M’Ahesa’s dance has nothing to do with what one commonly understands as dance. She does not produce “beautiful,” “sensually titillating” effects. She does not represent feelings, “fear,” “horror,” “lust,” “despair,” as “lovely.” Her are requires its own style. Her movements are angular, geometrically uncircular, just as we find them in old Egyptian paintings and reliefs. Neither softness of line nor playful grace are the weapons with which she puts us under her spell. On the contrary: her body constructs hard, quite unnaturally broken lines. Arms and legs take on nearly doll-like attitudes. But precisely this deliberate limiting of gestures gives her the possibility of until now unknown, utterly minute intensities, the most exquisite of refinements of bodily expression. With a sinking of the arm of only a few millimeters, she calls forth effects which all the tricks of the ballet school cannot teach.”

Sent M’Ahesa was similar to Schrenck in one respect, even though Schrenck never performed exotic dances: both project and intensely erotic aura while moving within a very confined space. They showed persuasively that convincing signification of erotic desire or pleasure did not depend on a feeling of  freedom in space, as exemplified in the convention of ballet and modern dance, with their cliched use of runs, leaps, pirouettes, and aerial acrobatics. These dancers revealed that erotic aura intensifies in relation to an acute sense of bodily confinement, of the body imploding, turning in on itself, riddled with tensions and contradictory pressures. They adopted movements to portray the body being squeezed and twisted, drifting in to a repertoire of squirms, spasms, angular thrusts, muscular suspensions. Contortionist dancing is perhaps the most extreme expression of this aesthetic. But Sent M’Ahesa complicated the matter by doing exotic dances – that is, she confined her body within a remote cultural-historical context, as if to suggest that the ecstatic body imploded metaphorical as well as physical space.”

Karl Eric Toepfer, “Solo Dancing,” in Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 175-179.

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 18
Published 1928

 

Dührkoop (Hamburg) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop (Hamburg)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 19
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 20
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 21
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 23
Published 1928

 

 

Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. …

As a child in Munich, Clotilde dreamt of becoming a violinist but from an early age she revealed how talented she was as a dancer. After receiving ballet lessons from Julie Bergmann and Anna Ornelli from the Munich Opera, she gave her first performance on 25 April 1910 at the Hotel Union, using the stage name Clotilde von Derp. The audience were enthralled by her striking beauty and youthful grace. Max Reinhardt presented her in the title role in his pantomime Sumurûn which proved a great success while on tour in London. A photo by Rudolf Dührkoop of her was exhibited in 1913 at the Royal Photographic Society. Clotilde was a member of the radical Blaue Reiter Circle which had been started by Wassily Kandinsky in 1911.

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and, with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff.” Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Unlike her husband, Clotilde had a taste for modern music, frequently choosing melancholic music by contemporaries such as Max Reger, Florent Schmitt and Stravinsky. Her haunting eyes and delicate smiles gave the impression she took pleasure in displaying her finely-costumed voluptuous body, even when she reached her forties. She was particularly effective in interpreting Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Hans Brandenbourg maintained her ballet technique was superior to that of Alexander although he did not consider her a virtuoso. Clotilde also moved more independently of the music, dancing to the impression it created in her mind rather than to the rhythm.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 26
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Veritas (Stephanie Held) (Munich)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 27
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 28
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 29
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Nijinski' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Nijinski
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 30
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 31
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 32
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 33
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 35
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 36
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 37
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 38
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 39
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 40
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 41
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavolva
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 42
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 43
Published 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 44
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 45
Published 1928

 

 

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06
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘Degas: A New Vision’ at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne Part 1

Exhibition dates: 24th June – 18th September 2016

 

A magnificent exhibition of the work of Edgar Degas at NGV International. So nice to see a blockbuster without papered walls or patterned floors, an exhibition that just allows the work to speak for itself. Review to follow in part 2 of the posting.

“Il y a quelque chose plus terrible encore que le bourgeois – c’est l’homme qui nous singe [There’s something even more awful than the bourgeois – it’s the man who apes us]”

Edgar Degas as noted down by Oscar Wilde when he met him in 1883.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the artwork and photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at right, Female nude

 

Edgar Degas. 'Female nude' 1905

 

Edgar Degas
Female nude
1905
Charcoal and brown pastel
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Gift of Mr Noah Torno, 2003

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Edgar Degas. 'Thérèse De Gas' c. 1863

 

Edgar Degas
Thérèse De Gas
c. 1863
Oil on canvas
89.5 x 66.7 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 2650)
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

 

 

At the start of the 1860s Degas’s family still acted as his primary models for portraiture. In early 1863 he painted this engagement portrait of his sister Thérèse. He shows her as a young woman all dressed up to go out; in fact, to go abroad. Timidly she show off her engagement ring before a view of Naples, her face serene, the sky blue with future happiness. She was to move to Naples after her marriage in Paris on 11 April 1863 to her first cousin Edmondo Morbilli, the son of Rose Morbilli, the sister of Degas’s father.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with, in the centre, Degas’s father listening to Lorenzo Pagans playing the guitar

 

Edgar Degas. 'Degas's father listening to Lorenzo Pagans playing the guitar' after 1874

 

Edgar Degas
Degas’s father listening to Lorenzo Pagans playing the guitar
after 1874
Oil on canvas
81.6 x 65.1 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Bequest of John T. Spaulding
© 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas: Self-portrait (two of four states) (installation view)
1857
Etching and drypoint
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H.O.
Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Edgar Degas. 'Edgar Degas: Self-portrait' (third of four states) 1857

 

Edgar Degas. 'Edgar Degas: Self-portrait' (third of four states) 1857

 

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas: Self-portrait (third of four states) (detail)
1857
Etching and drypoint
23.0 x 14.4 cm (plate), 34.9 x 25.7 cm (sheet),
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H.O.
Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

While studying in Rome as a young man degas became increasingly interested in printmaking and also in the portraits of Rembrandt, which he first saw in publication by the French art writer Charles Blanc. The effects of light and shadow in Rembrandt’s portraits inspired Degas to undertake a series of self-portraits including this, his only self-portrait etching, which he produced in four separate states. He experimented with altering the appearance of these etchings through leaving varying amounts of ink on the plate before printing. Degas was very pleased with this exercise, and gave away examples of these trials to his friends.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne including at left, Thérèse De Gas (c. 1855-56)

 

Traces of Ingres’s influence on the young Degas are clearly visible here in the clean, firm contours delineating the face of his hen fifteen-year-old sister Thérèse De Gas. Offsetting the crisp edge drawn along her cheek i a subtle modelling of the chin and cheeks produced with smudged pencil, recalling the sfumato (soft or blurred) effects of Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Edgar Degas. 'Thérèse De Gas' c. 1855-56

 

Edgar Degas
Thérèse De Gas
c. 1855-56
Black crayon and graphite on brown paper
32.0 x 28.4 cm (sheet)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Julia Knight Fox Fund
© 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edgar Degas. 'René De Gas' 1855

 

Edgar Degas
René De Gas (installation view)
1855
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts
Purchased 1935

 

 

Degas’s family members were his principal models in the early years of his career. His first art lessons were undertaken with Louis Lamothe, a loyal follower of the Neoclassical master Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. This portrait of his younger brother René, the family darling, betrays Degas’s resolve to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Ingres, whose work was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in September 1854. Degas visited the elderly master of Neoclassical portraiture in 1855, the year the he undertook this portrait. Preparatory drawings show that degas radically simplified his composition, eliminating a complex interior setting in favour of a dramatic dark background reminiscent of the Mannerist Old Master, Angolo Bronzino.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at left, Mendiante romaine [Roman beggar women]

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Edgar Degas
Mendiante romaine [Roman beggar women] (installation view)
1857
Oil on canvas
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Purchased 1960
Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council

 

 

This work is both a portrait and a genre scene, but it leans towards the former in that there is little trace of narrative, local colour or exotic reference. Degas details the marks of old age, fatigue and poverty – wrinkled skin, gnarled hands, the motley garments of a pauper – along with the faded colours that he recorded in a contemporary notebook: ‘figure of an old woman / very tanned skin, white veil / cloak thrown over / shoulder faded brown / faded free dress / a little like the back wall / of my room / yellow apron’

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at centre, Family portrait also called The Bellelli family 1867

 

Edgar Degas. 'Family portrait' also called 'The Bellelli family' 1867

 

Edgar Degas
Family portrait also called The Bellelli family (installation view)
1867
Oil on canvas
201 x 249.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 2210)
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

 

Edgar Degas. 'Family portrait' also called 'The Bellelli family' 1867

 

Edgar Degas
Family portrait also called The Bellelli family
1867
Oil on canvas
201 x 249.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 2210)
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

 

 

In 1858-59, during an Italian sojourn, Degas stayed in Florence for nine months with his aunt Laure and her husband, Baron Gennaro Bellelli. There he embarked on the largest painting he would ever create – a monumental portrait of Laure, Gennaro and their daughters, Giovanna and Giulia. A study of marital discontent presented on the scale of a history painting, Family portrait, also called The Bellelli family, reflected Degas’ recent study of the dignified sitters in the Flemish master Anthony van Dyck’s early seventeenth-century portraits, which he had seen in Genoa. He worked on this painting continuously after his return to Paris, completing a final version of it for the Paris Salon of 1867. Alive to the unhappy marital dynamics between Laure and her husband, a political exile from Naples, Degas showed his morose relatives in their rented apartment, physically separated from one another by items of furniture and Giovanna (on the left) and Giulia. Although expecting her third child, Laure Bellelli (la Baronne) stands proud and aloof, in full mourning for her recently deceased father (Degas’ grandfather) Hilaire Degas, whose portrait hangs on the wall behind her. Meanwhile, her husband, conspicuously not in mourning, sits in comfort by the fire. Adults and children are compressed into a shallow plane, an airless, static vacuum. The uneasy ambience is accentuated by Giulia’s absent leg and the family dog, shown without its head, in the right foreground.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at left, Monsieur Reulle (1861) and at right, Portrait de jeune femme [Portrait of a young woman] (1867)

 

In this portrait of Monsieur Ruelle, Degas shows his father’s former bank cashier as a man of seriousness and restrained sophistication, dressed in a dinner suit and black bow tie as if preparing to go the opera. In its combination of informality and masculine severity the portrait conforms to a convention among ninetieth-centruy Realist artists of portraying each other and their friends as modern men of leisure and the metropolis.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Edgar Degas
Étude pour Jeunes Spartiates s’exerçant à la lutte [Study for The young Spartans exercising] (installation view)
c. 1860-61
Oil on paper on paper on cardboard
Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Friends of the Fogg Museum

 

 

On returning to Paris from Italy in 1860 Degas began work on scenes from the Bible and ancient history, including this preparatory oil sketch for a vignette from an ancient greek subject. In the foreground two groups of adolescents are seen confronting each other on the plains of Sparta, watched over by the white-haired law-giver Lycurgus and the teenagers’ mothers. The subject has conventionally been read as the exercises traditionally undertaken by Spartans in preparation for war, but it has also been suggested that it represents Spartan courtship rites. In the Life of Lycurgus  it was noted that display of physical prowess by girls assisted young men in choosing strong mothers, who would produce strong children.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

installation-p

 

Edgar Degas
Petites filles spartiates provoquant des garçons [Young Spartan girls challenging boys] (installation views)
c. 1860
Oil on canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

 

Edgar Degas. 'Edmondo and Thérèse Morbilli' c. 1865

 

Edgar Degas
Edmondo and Thérèse Morbilli
c. 1865
Oil on canvas
116.5 x 88.3 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Robert Treat Paine, 2nd
© 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

An exhibition of one of the world’s most beloved artists, Edgar Degas, opens to the public from tomorrow at NGV International showcasing significant works never-before-seen in Australia.

In its world premiere, Degas: A New Vision presents the largest display of Degas’ works to ever come to Australia, and forms the most comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre in decades. Featuring more than 200 works, Degas: A New Vision reveals Degas’ talent in a new light; not only as a great master of painting, but also as a master of drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography. The works travel to Melbourne from 65 lenders in more than 40 cities across the globe.

The Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, said, “Degas: A New Vision is a coup for the NGV and for Victoria. Local audiences will be the first in the world to experience this incredible exhibition – another example of how we are leading the way as the creative state. Part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series, this exhibition continues the tradition of creating drawcard cultural events for locals and visitors and bringing must-see art to our city each year.”

Some of Degas’ most famous masterworks are presented including the bronze sculpture The little fourteen-year-old dancer, 1879-81, and In a café (The Absinthe drinker), c. 1875-76. World-renowned paintings, never-before-seen in Australia, are also exhibited such as the celebrated ballet paintings The rehearsal, c. 1874, and Finishing the arabesque, 1877, and Degas’ monumental portrait The Bellelli family, 1867.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, “Presenting Edgar Degas’ magnificent oeuvre in a fresh and reinvigorated light showcases him as one of the defining artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Considered one of the world’s most celebrated and significant artists, his influence upon modern and contemporary art is undeniable. Degas: A New Vision provides audiences with a rare experience to truly be immersed in the creativity and originality of his art, giving visitors a deeper and richer understanding of his brilliance.”

Degas: A New Vision is presented thematically, grouping together the subjects which Degas continually returned to throughout his career, including not only his famous ballet scenes but also arresting portraits, the nude, horse-racing, the social world of Parisian nightlife, and women at work and leisure. The exhibition also explores the great technical, conceptual and expressive freedoms that Degas achieved in his later years, and reveals his experiments with a range of mediums including sculpture and photography. This approach emphasises Degas’ obsessive and highly creative working methods, and allows visitors to enjoy the development of Degas’ art from its beginnings.

Degas was fascinated by aspects of modern life – voraciously painting Paris’ dance halls and cabarets, cafés, racetracks, opera and ballet stages. He also studied the simple, everyday gestures of working women: milliners, dressmakers and laundresses. He was drawn to explore movement that was precise and disciplined, such as that of racehorses and ballet dancers, and absorbed a diverse range of influences from Japanese prints to Italian Mannerism.

The National Gallery of Victoria is pleased to be working with the world’s pre-eminent expert on Edgar Degas, Henri Loyrette, former Director of the Musée du Louvre (2001-13) and Musée d’Orsay (1994-2001), who is principal curator of the exhibition. The National Gallery of Victoria and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, are both staging this major retrospective, which has been developed by both institutions in association with Art Exhibitions Australia. Degas: A New Vision travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in October 2016.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at centre left, Portrait of Mademoiselle Eugénie Fiocre in the ballet The Spring (1867-68) and, a centre right, Etude de nus: Mlle Fiocre dans le ballet La Source [Nude study: Mademoiselle Fiocre in the ballet The Spring) (1867-68)

 

Edgar Degas. 'Portrait of Mademoiselle Eugénie Fiocre in the ballet The Spring' 1867-68

 

Edgar Degas
Portrait of Mademoiselle Eugénie Fiocre in the ballet The Spring
1867-68
Oil on canvas
130.8 x 145.1 cm
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Gift of James H. Post, A. Augustus Healy, and John T. Underwood, 1921

 

Edgar degas. 'Etude de nus: Mlle Fiocre dans le ballet La Source' 1867-68

 

Edgar Degas 
Etude de nus: Mlle Fiocre dans le ballet La Source [Nude study: Mademoiselle Fiocre in the ballet ‘The Spring’] 
(installation view)
1867-68
Oil on canvas
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at left, Portrait d’homme [Portrait of a man] (c. 1866) and a right, Victoria Dubourg (1868-69)

 

 

Among Degas’s circle of Realist painters were some outstanding practitioners of still life, a genre that enjoyed a resurgence of popularity following the revival of interest in the French eighteenth-century painter Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin. The identity of the man in this portrait is unknown, although he seems to be a still-life artist. He is depicted by Degas in his studio, informal seated with hands clasped, surrounded by the standard props of his trade: hunks of meat, white cloths, glassware and sketches of past still lives displayed on a wall as aides-mémoire – a masculine counterpart to the portrait of Victoria Dubourg that is also displayed here.

 

Edgar Degas. 'Victoria Dubourg' c. 1868-69

 

Edgar Degas
Victoria Dubourg
c. 1868-69
Oil on canvas
81.3 x 64.8 cm
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Levis

 

Edgar Degas. 'Mme Jeantaud sur sa chaise longue, avec deux chiens [Madame Jeantaud on her chaise longue, with two dogs]' 1877

 

Edgar Degas
Mme Jeantaud sur sa chaise longue, avec deux chiens [Madame Jeantaud on her chaise longue, with two dogs] (installation view)
1877
Oil on canvas
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

 

 

Berthe Marie Jeantaud was the wife of Charles Jeantaud, with whom Degas served in the artillery company under the command of Henri Rouart in 1870-71, during the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune. Following Berthe Marie’s marriage to Jeantaud in 1872, Degas produced this as well as a second portrait of her. Her cousin was Vicomte Ludovic Lepic, a landscape painter and etcher who taught degas methods of manipulating plate tones in his monotypes. In this remarkable candid and economical oil sketch, Degas depicts Madame Jeantaud at home with her two small dogs at 24 rue de Téhéran.

 

Edgar Degas. 'Mme Jeantaud sur sa chaise longue, avec deux chiens [Madame Jeantaud on her chaise longue, with two dogs]' 1877 (detail)

 

Edgar Degas
Mme Jeantaud sur sa chaise longue, avec deux chiens [Madame Jeantaud on her chaise longue, with two dogs] (installation view detail)
1877
Oil on canvas
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

 

Edgar Degas. 'Henri Rouart and his daughter Hélène' 1871–72

 

Installation view of Degas’s Henri Rouart and his daughter Hélène 1871-72

 

Edgar Degas. 'Henri Rouart and his daughter Hélène' 1871-72

 

Edgar Degas
Henri Rouart and his daughter Hélène
1871-72
Oil on canvas
63.5 x 74.9 cm
Courtesy of Acquavalla Galleries
© Courtesy of Acquavella Galleries

 

 

So cordial were Degas’s relations with Henri Rouart and his brother Alexis, who was also an art collector, that he dined with Alexis on Tuesdays and Henri on Fridays. In 1906 Degas wrote to his sister Thérèse that the Rouarts were his only remaining family in France. This portrait of Henri with his daughter Hélène was the first of many portraits. Henri is seen here as a paterfamilias, head of his household (a role that Degas esteemed) and in front of one of his landscapes, which degas also admired enough to invite Henri to exhibit with the ‘impressionists’.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at right, Dead fox in the undergrowth (1864-68)

 

Edgar Degas. 'Dead fox in the undergrowth' 1864-68

 

Edgar Degas
Renard mort, sou-bois [Dead fox in the undergrowth]
1864-68
Oil on canvas
35.0 x 58.0 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais

 

 

While his colleagues exhibition plein-air landscapes as ‘Impressionists’, degas adhered to his position as a ‘Realist’ during the 1860s and 70s, with at times awkward results. Dead fox in the undergrowth displays the powerful sense of physical presence that can be achieved by studying a dead fox in the studio under artificial light, and by using a brush to render the fox’s luscious pelt. Less convincing is the forest setting, which is invited and only roughly blocked out. Here Degas applied thin slashes of green and brown paint to suggest trees and forest floor, emulating, some have suggested, the Realist technique of Gustave Courbet.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne with at left, The little fourteen-year-old dancer (1879-81) and at centre bottom, The song rehearsal (c. 1872-73)

 

Edgar Degas. 'The little fourteen-year-old dancer' 1879-81, cast 1922-37

 

Edgar Degas
The little fourteen-year-old dancer
1879-81, cast 1922-37
Bronze with cotton skirt and satin ribbon
99.0 x 35.2 x 24.5 cm
Czestochowski/Pingeot 73 (cast unlettered)
Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Assis Chateaubriand
Donated by Alberto José Alves, Alberto Alves Filho and Alcino Ribeiro de Lima

 

 

At the 1881 ‘impressionist’ group exhibition Degas unveiled a large wax sculpture of an immature ballerina (of which this is a bronze version), which he provocatively clad in real clothing. Critics were scandalised, accusing him of having dredged ‘the lower depths of dance’, choosing his dancer from among the ‘most hatefully ugly’. Degas’ model, ballet student Marie Van Goethem, the daughter of a tailor and a laundress and part-time prostitute, was later to abandon her dance studies and disappear into Paris’ underworld.

Degas produced sculptures in his studio from the 1860s until the 1910s. He modelled them in wax, over steel wire and cork armatures. Never satisfied, he made, destroyed and remade them repeatedly, his primary subjects being thoroughbred racehorses, female dancers and women at their toilette. As Degas’ eyesight deteriorated in his later years, making three-dimensional figures fulfilled a physical and emotional need that transcended any desire to perfect a finished object; he allegedly said that sculpture was ‘a blind man’s trade’.

After Degas’ death in 1917, some 150 wax sculptures were found in his studio, some broken but many intact. His heirs subsequently authorised the casting in bronze, by the Adrien-A. Hébrard Foundry, Paris, and their Milanese master craftsman Albino Palazzolo, of seventy four of the most intact of Degas’ sculptures. While many of Degas’ original wax sculptures still survive, they are too fragile to travel. These bronzes allow wider audiences today to engage with some of the most beautiful sculptures of the nineteenth century.

 

Edgar Degas. 'The song rehearsal' c. 1872–73

 

Edgar Degas
The song rehearsal
c. 1872-73
Oil on canvas
81.0 x 64.9 cm
House Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C.

 

Installation view of Edgar Degas. 'Cotton merchants in New Orleans' 1873

 

Edgar Degas
Marchands de coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans [Cotton merchants in New Orleans] (installation view)
1873
Oil on linen
Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Gift of Herbert N. Strauss

 

Edgar Degas. 'Un bureau de coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans [A cotton office in New Orleans]' (installation view) 1873

 

Edgar Degas
Un bureau de coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans [A cotton office in New Orleans] (installation view)
1873
Oil on linen
Museé des Beaux-Arts, Pau

 

Edgar Degas. 'Un bureau de coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans [A cotton office in New Orleans]' 1873

 

Edgar Degas
Un bureau de coton à la Nouvelle-Orléans [A cotton office in New Orleans] (installation view)
1873
Oil on linen
Museé des Beaux-Arts, Pau

 

 

In October 1872 Degas travelled to New Orleans in the United States, where he stayed for five months with his late mother’s brother Michel Musson and the extended Musson family. The artist’s younger brothers René and Achille had already relocated there, and had opened a wine import business financed by the Parisian Degas family bank. During his stay in Louisiana, Degas painted A cotton office in New Orleans, 1873, which reflected his observations of the industry that was central to that city. This now celebrated painting, which became the first work by Degas to enter a public collection when acquired by Pau’s Musée des Beaux-Arts in 1878, depicts Michel Musson in the foreground sampling cotton fibre in the office of his cotton export business.

René and Achille De Gas appear as relaxed visitors – René reading a newspaper and Achille casually observing the other men at work – in this complex group portrait of fourteen men, which has echoes of the artist’s love of seventeenth-century Dutch guild portraits. A cotton office in New Orleans was the prototype for many of Degas’ works of the 1870s and 1880s: framing that cuts to the heart of the subject and slices through men and objects alike; a de-centred composition viewed from slightly overhead, with a steep, diagonal perspective; a depth of field that creates close-ups while miniaturising anything farther off; and contrasts provided by light sources and, more particularly, by the frequently reproduced backlighting effect.

 

Installation view of Edgar Degas. 'Courtyard of a house (New Orleans, sketch) 1873

 

Edgar Degas
Cour d’une maison à la Nouvelle-Orléans [Courtyard of a house (New Orleans, sketch)] (installation view)
1873
Oil on canvas
Ordeupgaard, Copenhagen
Bequest of the Danish government, 1951

 

The partially finished state of Courtyard of a house (New Orleans, sketch) reflects Degas’s experiences in the city, as he struggled to fulfil social obligations with his American relatives. The view here looking out from a shaded interior also indicates that Degas was already experiencing problems with his eyesight, which was affected by the harsh Louisiana sunlight.

 

Edgar Degas. 'The pedicure' 1873

 

Edgar Degas
The pedicure
1873
Oil and essence on paper on canvas
61.5 x 46.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1986)
Photo © RMN – Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

The young girl being attended to by a chiropodist in this painting is believed to be Joe Balfour, daughter of Degas’s widowed cousin Estelle Musson, whose husband had been killed in 1862 during the American Civil War. Degas here uses a technique he invented, peinture à l’essence (which entailed using oil pigments with most of the oil blotted away, thinned out with turpentine). Applied like watercolour, it dried with a soft matt finish that Degas preferred to the glossy sheen of traditional oil paintings.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Degas: A New Vision' at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Edgar Degas Interior c. 1868-69 (installation view)

 

Installation views of the exhibition Degas: A New Vision at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne showing Interior (c. 1868-69)

 

Edgar Degas. 'Interior' c. 1868-69

 

Edgar Degas
Interior
c. 1868-69
Oil on canvas
81.3 x 114.3 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986
© Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

Degas ironically referred to this painting as ‘my genre picture’, by which he understated the gravitas of this domestic scene. This drama of seeming violation perpetrated on a young working-class woman b a man displaying the clothing and posture of a young bourgeois acquired in Degas’s hands the breadth and intensity of history painting. The muted colours and dim light accentuate the unspoken violence, anguish and simmering tension between the two people. The open box on the round table at the centre of the painting is a telling symbol of lost virginity. The rosy interior of the gaping jewel-case is brutally expired by the lamp standing next to it.

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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