Edgar Degas, the member of the French Impressionist group who maintained traditional academic values more than the others, spent much of his career fascinated with the ballet dancers of the Paris Opera.
He drew and painted them again and again, in the process creating some of his most memorable works, including the strikingly innovative pieces in which, to the consternation of critics at the time, he shattered the traditional rules of artistic composition (two top images above). It’s difficult for us, in our jaded post-modernist position in time, to appreciate what a leap that was.
Degas used innovative divisions of the picture plane, in addition to the positions of the figure, to convey the motion of his dancers.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement is a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London that traces the artist’s fascination with ballet dancers and movement over the course of his life and artistic development, along with the corresponding impact of the new visual technology of photography.
Aside from an introductory video, the Royal Academy’s site doesn’t do a very good job of picturing the exhibition. The Guardian comes through again with a review and slideshow that features works from the show.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement is on view until 11 December 2011. There is an exhibition catalogue and CD accompanying the exhibit.