– ART –
Art makes the world
a better place.
It stirs emotions in people.
It brings to light
and shows everything in between.
It reveals what would otherwise remain unseen.
Beware though and look past the frame into its soul.
Note: For those who are in a playful mood, I have hidden some words and a message in my lines. You can scroll down to get the key.
As we are talking about art, I thought it would be relevant to choose another artist’s words to expand our reflection on the topic. While I was writing and researching, I ended up compiling the scattered bits of information you will find below.
I know it is long, but please don’t sigh. ❤ You don’t have to read it, and if you still want to, the positive part is you were spared the looooong hours of research, and you can now enjoy the selected content, digested and explained through my words. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Art Through Degas’ Words
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
I will let you ponder over that – we will get back to it in my conclusion below – and start by telling you more about the man himself.
Degas (1834-1917) is often referred to as an Impressionist, but he was highly influenced by Realism too and preferred to call himself an “Independent”. He began to exhibit his work in Paris in the 1870s. He enjoyed playing with light, movement, and painted scenes of urban leisure and nudes. He also portrayed lower-class models in some of his paintings and that did not meet the approval of his peers. His inherited wealth enabled him to work on his art, as he desired throughout his life.
After the Bath, Woman drying herself (1890-5) painting realised by E. Degas and exposed at the National Gallery in London.
About This Painting
I find this painting textural, alluring and sensual. It has a slightly passé feel, because of the colours and the decor, but if you block out the bathtub, the rug, the curtains and the chair, and just focus the subject, her body, her pose, her gesture, her curves, it feels like it could be you, sitting on your beauty bench in your bathroom, drying your hair after a hot bath or a long shower that followed an even longer day, and left you with no choice but to sit, drained. I love how he traced her lines, the waves drawn in the folds of her skin on her back, the perfectly carved valley running along her back. You can feel her muscles tense and release around her shoulder blades. He must have observed her for hours or… He cheated a bit and used a photograph as a model.
At a time when the emergence of photography* on a large scale was changing the place and the role of painting in society, forcing it to redefine itself, Degas did use this emerging art as a helping tool. He captured pictures and pushed further with his art. He tried to integrate movements that a photograph could not show, and emphasised it in his work. Here, he blurred the contours of the figure he traced and played with textures with the pastel medium to achieve just that.
“It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one now only sees in one’s memory. That is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.”
Miss La La au Cirque Fernando (1879), painting realised by E. Degas and exposed at the National Gallery in London.
About This Painting
I am really touched by Degas’ art. I particularly love his Miss La La au Cirque Fernando, which is one of my favourite paintings. I love the pastel colours, the composition, the framing, the position of the subject on the canvas. It feels like he took a photograph and memorised it. Degas was fascinated by movements and poses. In this piece, he invites us to watch the performing artist frozen in her act just, as he must have been, himself, sitting in the audience, admiring her. It is an easy assumption to make considering he went to the circus several times to see the representation. That is how much he liked Miss La La’s act.
I am always struck in awe when I observe his work. I feel transported through his art, through his imagery, not precisely to his time, but to a unique version of his time seen through his eyes and magically enhanced and hazed twice over, by his imagination and by his art.
It is now time to wrap this up so I am bringing another of Degas’ quotes, which I find amazing, true to most forms of art, and more often than not necessary to pique my gourmet artistic interest.
“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.”
As an artist, painter, writer, or in any other form of art, you just have to find your own inner voice, your style, your balance, your purpose. Always write with a purpose. If you are not sure about that, just keep in mind that someone is going to read you, and they have to get you. Make sure they can. Don’t be lazy. *note to self* Read it over, read it out loud, if it flows generally it will mean a go, if it doesn’t work on it a little longer, just until it does… Art is patience.
Painting takes work, writing does too.
“One must do the same subject over again ten times, a hundred times. In art nothing must resemble an accident, not even movement.”
Should art be spontaneous or controlled? Balanced? To what extend? I could ask a thousand more questions for us to ponder over, and I probably will some other day, in another post.
I hope you enjoyed this read.
I would be so very delighted to hear your take on art, and what it means to you. I would also love to discover some of your favourite artists or works of art, pieces that particularly touch you. If you feel like it, react or share in the comment section below.
More about Degas:
A tiny bit of history of photography to help situate Degas
in a historical and societal perspective.
1800-30s – Birth of photography through many inventors and varied techniques throughout the world. (Nicéphore Niépce, Hércules Florence, Henry Fox Talbot, Louis Daguerre, John Herschel…)
1839 – Daguerre commercialises his camera.
1888 – First Kodak original box cameras get commercialised. Black and white pictures become available to the general public.
Around 1907 – Early colour photography – Autochrome technique. (Link to an interesting thoroughly researched video here) 7:30)
1913 – The girl in red (see photos below) – Mervyn O’Gorman, a British engineer captures stills of his daughter Christina, on a day at the beach in Lulworth Cove, southern England.
I am amazed at how dreamy and timeless these pictures look. It doesn’t feel like they are over a hundred years old.
Despite the enthusiasm the autochrome technique first met in the art circles, their interest was short lived. The mechanical process was not satisfying to some artists, because they felt like they didn’t have control over the process. Thus it didn’t fit their definition of art, which is mostly creation and work involving the artist’s touch. For a long period of time, the colour techniques lost ground in favour of monochrome. The trauma and tragedy of the two World Wars also participated in putting all the craze it first met, and any advancement in this field of technology altogether into a relative halt.
1960s 70s – Colour photography becomes popular and widely commercialised.
1970s – 80s – Emergence of the technology of digital cameras.
mid to late 1990s – Digital cameras start reaching a wider population.
1999 – First phone equipped with a camera (Kyocera – Japan-only VP-200)
More links for further reading
- Shedding Light on the Autochrome – CNRS International Magazine
- Les Autochromes Lumière – autochromes.culture.fr
Why didn’t people smile in old photos? – The Guardian
- The Earliest Known Pictures of People Smiling – Peta Pixel
- Pictorialism – creators.vice.com
- Pictorialism – ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA
Featured image: Sunset Framed by Shadowed Leaves, captured in Thonon-Les-Bains, France, on May 22nd, 2017. (iPhone 5S, HDR settings)
Hidden words and message
beware of hate