Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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A Los Angeles Childhood - Jour 9 -Degas and The Nude Part 2
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 09:33

The exhibit was divided into seven parts. And again at this exhibit, there were benches in some of the rooms, which gave me a chance to rest my legs and to contemplate a room with a certain body of works, the first one being THE CLASSICAL BODY. Earlier on Degas studied the teaching methods of Ingres, explaining, "You must copy and recopy the masters..." There was one of his notebooks which showed that he divided the canvas into square grids all the same size, and was able to take apart and realistically represent the body perspective correctly. One of the paintings at the show was Petites Filles Spartriates provoquant des garcons, Young Spartans Exercising.

The second room held his early work, THE BODY IN PERIL, where Degas begins to show his individual style.

The third room, THE BODY EXPLOITED, showed a clear break with the tradition of the day. These were paintings of nude prostitutes, showing a much more earthy and more than likely realistic version than the past goddesses of antiquity, showing compassion of the women when alone and mocking the clients who vacillate between desire and anxiety. Anxiety because of the rampant spread of venereal disease during this time. These paintings were never shown in his lifetime.

The fourth room, THE BODY OBSERVED had paintings of women alone in the bath, very banal, he felt. Degas states, "My women are simple honest creatures...I show them without vanity or affectation.  Other painters obsessed with this aspect in the 1880s were his friends Calliebotte (I wrote a blog on his art last year in my Paris blogs) and Gervex.

The fifth room, THE BODY EXHIBITED continues showing these women doing ordinary things like washing their feet. Degas tells us, "Here is another. She is washing her feet...it is as if you were looking through a keyhole."

He talks about art being the same word as artifice, which he compares to "something deceitful."

Room six, THE BODY TRANSFORMED, speaks to creating the general tone, which Degas says establishes the harmony of the painting. "In order to make that tone more striking and more true, you may, if need be, introduce untrue colors which will set it off"

In the 1890s, Degas’ work focused on movement, repeating the same poses in different paintings. He used the technique of tracing paper in these efforts. These were his series showing the slight changes in technique.

The final Room, THE LEGACY OF DEGAS' NUDES, we find paintings that accentuate bone and muscle and the firmness of flesh.

Degas states, "The air one breathes in the paintings of the masters is not the air one breathes outdoors.” We begin to see Degas representing his bathers on the grass, out in nature. With this, Degas began to transform the art of the nude in his contemporary world.

The reason I so enjoyed this exhibit, is, as was true in the Matisse Pairs and Series, at the Pompidou, I was able to observe process, the ever-changing aspect in a world, which we also see changing at the turn of the century edging toward the 1900s. Process is always interesting to me. As a writer I have tracked my evolution of writing from long skinny poems to longer lines, and over time introducing narrative, and prose.

I hope this gives you a different view of Degas, and thank you for continuing to read Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.

Click here: Edgar Degas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia