Tiny dancer … big show

The entrance sets the stage perfectly, with a dramatic, darkened room. Shadows of ballerinas float on the walls, in a scene not unlike the tiny plastic dancers doing endless pirouettes atop musical jewellery boxes in little girls’ bedrooms.

Amy Hughes

The last time the Royal Academy put on a big show, it was Van Gough’s Letters, which drew crowds of epic proportions.  I, foolishly, was too “busy” to attend the press view.    With a similar turnout expected, there was no way I was going to miss the Degas preview.

The entrance sets the stage perfectly, with a dramatic, darkened room.  Shadows of ballerinas float on the walls, in a scene not unlike the tiny plastic dancers doing endless pirouettes atop musical jewellery boxes in little girls’ bedrooms.

While Edgar Degas, a leader of the Impressionists, did paint other subjects: racehorses and bathing women, as the title suggests, this exhibit focuses on Degas’ obsession with dancers, both in rehearsal and on stage.

Ten galleries create a retrospective of Degas’ work, including a variety of media, from charcoal to chalk, pencil to pastel, traditional oil, sculpture and even photography.

Both celebrated and little-known works are represented.  One of Degas’ most famous works, Little Dancer, the sculpture of a 14-year old ballerina, with a faded, tulle tutu, and a plucky face, hair pulled back into an ivory string of silk, is on display, as well as his first forays into photography.    One fine example of Degas’ embrace of technology is a gelatin dry plate negative against a burnt sunset orange tone of a dancer, with her arm outstretched.  It doesn’t look like a work of art from the late 19th century, but rather more modern.

The show ends with the deterioration of Degas and some of the pastels he drew towards the end of his life.  While more blurred, and less technically perfect than his other works, these are no less compelling.

Die-hard Degas fans or ballet enthusiasts will want to combine a visit with any one of the free gallery talks, lunchtime lectures, workshops, or programmes held in collaboration with the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet.   Check the Royal Academy’s website for details.

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement

Royal Academy of Art

17 September – 11 December 2011

www.royalacademy.org.uk

Sponsored by BNY Mellon and Supported by Region Holdings and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Social Share

Related Posts

Sketches from Luzern

Sketches from Luzern

Mark Eggleton The piano recital had just passed the 90-minute mark and I’d run out of things to do. More pertinently, I was wrestling with my internal monologue. I screamed out an obscenity yet no one seemed to notice – I was safe for a few more seconds. From my seat, I’d counted the audience …

Sketches from Luzern Read More »

Binge-drinking artists debunk Chinese script

Binge-drinking artists debunk Chinese script

Matt Shepherd Sitting in the low-ceilinged loft of a smoky bar in Yangjiang - China’s answer to Sheffield - Zheng Guogu has just learned the English for ‘piss artist’ and likes it so much he says it three times over. With the kind of arresting rawness that you only get when foreigners or very young children swear, Zheng …

Binge-drinking artists debunk Chinese script Read More »

Hotel art for art's sake

Hotel art for art's sake

Hotel art is so often synonymous with mass-produced prints, thoughtlessly arranged in carbon-copied rooms. But there a few emerging boutique properties that are celebrating artistic expression and embracing local and international artists. Ranging from the seriously impressive collections of big name artists such as Andy Warhol and Antony Gormley in THE THIEF hotel in Oslo, …

Hotel art for art’s sake Read More »

After Afghanistan, when the war begins

After Afghanistan, when the war begins

Lauren Arena When I meet Ben Quilty he looks and smells exactly as I imagined. He’s dressed in a flannelette shirt, jeans and sneakers, with scruffy hair and a beard that's fiercely thick. He smells of oil paint and I can see it still jammed under his fingernails. Sitting in a leafy courtyard at the …

After Afghanistan, when the war begins Read More »

Dad's army of the sea to tackle piracy

Dad's army of the sea to tackle piracy

Lauren Arena With piracy costing the global economy upwards of $10 billion a year it might be time to consider engaging and killing pirates on sight according to a world leading defence analyst. Executive Director at the Australian Defence Association, Neil James says piracy was only crushed in the 19th century because pirates were killed …

Dad’s army of the sea to tackle piracy Read More »

Not just art for art's sake

Not just art for art's sake

Amy Hughes There’s a new, or perhaps old, kid in town and it’s pulling both the punters and the posh crowd to Philadelphia. The Barnes Foundation is probably THE most talked about opening in the art world these days. Its list of holdings alone is staggering: 181 Renoirs (the largest single group of the artist’s …

Not just art for art’s sake Read More »