Monday Lectures

18 January 2021

Degas and the Stage - Dancers and Singers in the Art of Edgar Degas

 with Chris Boicos

Edgar Degas, Dance Examination, 1880, Denver Art Museum

 

More than any other artist of the 19th century, Degas found inspiration in the figures of the ballet dancers of the Paris Opera whom he studied obsessively over many decades.  His paintings, drawings and prints of the dancers offer us a complete vision, not only of their movements and performances on stage, but also their life in the rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and the backstage of the theater, their grinding daily routines and their suitors.

 

A less well-known theme in Degas’ art are his colorful depictions of the musical hall singers of 19th century Paris in the more

« vulgar » setting of the café-concerts of the Champs-Elysées - a subject that will greatly inspire future painters of Paris night life like J. L. Forain and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. We will see how both subjects, in their great variety of composition, use of pose and artistic techniques, provide us with one of the richest examinations of femininity and the world of professional female performers in the history of art.

 

Edgar Degas, Singer with a Glove, 1878, Fogg Museum, Harvard