Paperwork is partially to blame. And cooking and maintenance on the apartment. And this time the bloody incessant rain! Now there’s only a week left and I’m trying to cram it all in before I leave.
So I’ve given a lot of thought to setting priorities. Which is why I hopped on the métro to the Musée d’Orsay this morning, before the rest of the Things To Do started getting done.
But back to the reason I’m here.
Edgar Degas (actually De Gas) was born into the Parisian bourgeoisie in 1834 and earmarked to be something other than an artist. So much for his parents’ expectations. I thought I knew a lot about Degas, but I didn’t. For instance, his mother was from New Orleans and there is some lip service to the idea that his Scène de guerre au Moyen Age (War scene from the Middle Ages) is based on tales he heard of the rape of New Orleans women during America’s Civil War. An entire room is dedicated to this piece and some of the numerous sketches he made for it. All reflect his concern with portraying the naked body and his fascination with its contortions, which became his speciality.
The show is very different from what I’d expected. Degas is remembered chiefly for his paintings of ballet dancers and race tracks. But his classical training instilled in him a fascination with the human body, which implies naked. He carried on this fascination throughout his career, and this show is all about that.
|Femme demi-nue, étendue sur le dos|
Another facet of the show is underlining the connection between Degas and other painters of the period. Especially Renoir, for the colors used to depict the voluptuousness of feminine flesh. Like other painters of the period, Renoir depicted his flesh outdoors while Degas innovated by placing his women in their natural indoors habitat - a fact that goes hand-in-hand with Zola’s literary naturalism of the same era.
The show ends in one of the old reception rooms, with its high, ornate ceilings. It closes by making a link between Degas and the upcoming generation. There’s a canvas by Toulouse Lautrec (in fact, there are a few others through the exhibit, if you look carefully) and another by Gauguin, both of whom studied Degas’ art carefully, and each of whom took part of it and carried it forward into their own works.
It’s a fascinating show, but perhaps not for those who need the Big Bang Factor. It’s more of a quiet walk through the developing genius of Degas, step by step. And a lot is learned while stepping.
Degas et le nu
March 13 - July 1, 2012
1, rue de la Légion-d’Honneur
Open Tuesday - Sunday 9:30 - 6
Thursdays open until 9:45 pm