Acknowledged as an expert at drawing the human figure in motion, Degas is also regarded as one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, though he adapted a disparaging attitude towards them as a group. He was never observed as having adopted the Impressionist color fleck, and looked scornfully at their practice of painting en plein air (in the open air). Nevertheless, he is considered an Impressionist mainly because of the characteristics of his artistic pieces: scenes of Parisian life, off-center and open compositions and experiments with color and form. All these are notable traits of other Impressionist painters. Degas also maintained a close friendship with several key figures in the Impressionist movement during the early years of his life. Over the years, he became increasingly isolated from family and friends, as he held the philosophy that “a painter could have no personal life (Canaday 929).” He continued his work until about 1912, until his quickly failing eyesight and the looming demolition of his main residence forced him to stop.
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Degas Rehearsal of a Ballet on Stage 1874
In his painting Rehearsal of a Ballet on Stage the lighting of the figures suggests an introverted scene in which there exists no audience merely the movement of the dancers on stage. This movement in turn further heightens the viewer’s awareness of Degas as being self-possessed. This is obvious in the way that Degas creates an entire dress rehearsal in which none of the ballerinas acknowledge each other’s existence with either eye contact, touching, or a hint of conversation but rather the dancers are only involved in their own body and position on stage just as Degas as an artist is not concerned with political ideals or social issues in his work but paints his own personality into the work and creates beauty with an already beautiful subject.
Egon Schiele “Woman Sitting with Left Leg Drawn Up” 1917
Egon Schiele was a contemporary of Gustav Klimt. Both artists experimented with the ideas of love through their work. Klimt’s famous masterpiece “The Kiss” is seen as a romantic entanglement of love. Schiele’s work examines the more gruesome workings of the human psyche. However, in his piece “Woman Sitting” the figure is his own Venus, for she is his wife.
The woman sits in an empty canvas. She is wearing leggings, tattered shorts, and a green sleeveless shirt. Her hair is either short or tied up. Her hands move toward her uplifted left leg and wrap it in an ownership embrace. The lifted leg causes the fabric of her shorts to fall and reveals the underneath of her thigh. Her eyes stare straight out at the viewer. Here is Venus enticing. Fully realized and sensual, she gazes out from the blank canvas, but no one would really notice it was blank because she herself embodies so much of the paintings color. Venus is heavily outlines, her skin is rather sallow but in parts there are pieces of pink shining through.
A classic Schiele move with the figure is having the legs spread apart. That is what is alluring about her. She invites without prejudice to the viewer. Perhaps this is why the canvas is blank, she has nothing but herself to offer. Venus is without material gifts here unlike Ingres’ Venus. There is only her, with red hair and opened legs. The pose is playful though, with head resting on kneecap. The missing element here, as well as the other depictions of Venus excluding Bronzino’s is that Venus does not smile. Though she is playful in Schiele’s version of her, she is still apathetic in a way. In fact there is no true emotion shown in any of the Venus’. There are suggestions by the surroundings but no actual signs of how Venus feels.
The exhibition will not be laid open for the viewer in chronological order but instead will progress from portrait to portrait with each one revealing more of the subject until the final one will be Grand Odalisque in which the viewer will have direct eye contact with the subject which will hasten the idea of voyeurism in the exhibition. Thus, the first portrait will be Degas’ work consecutively followed by Schiele and ending on Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “Grande Odalisque” 1814. The space of the exhibition will be scarce with each room being designated to the full beauty of the canvas and artist as well as the sensuality of Venus and the viewer will then go on to the next room where they will be introduced to the next piece. There will be chairs for people to sit upon and contemplate the piece so that they do not feel rushed to move on to the next room, thus, the chairs serve as giving the audience permission to sit and linger and ponder the art work.
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