As I mentioned yesterday, my love of Impressionism is founded in a fleeting image I had for my current novel.
The painting my protagonist viewed in the d’Orsay museum is Degas’ Rehearsal on Stage.
I think I’m drawn to this painting because it resembles a photograph, with its sepia tones, candid perspective, and authenticity of the hard life of a ballerina. It isn’t all glitz and glamour.
As I researched Degas, however, I learned to love him. Now mind you, I am NOT an art historian – or an art anything… so this opinion is based on nothing but my own thoughts. But to me… Degas is the Darcy of the Impressionist world.
|Rehearsal on Stage|
Degas came from a wealthy family. He wasn’t landed gentry, but he did not fit the starving artist image. Degas was a loner, an introvert. He did not make idle chit chat, and when asked his opinion, he did not mince words.
Degas was known as surly, difficult, moody. He did not play well with others and often considered an island unto himself: he badmouthed the artists’ salon, and yet did not embrace the “plein air” painting of the Impressionists. He was a perfectionist who was never satisfied with his own work. In fact, he once said he wished he could buy back all his pictures and destroy them.
|Ballerinas – painted later in Degas’ life|
Perhaps I like Degas (and Darcy) because I too am a misunderstood perfectionist. My shyness is often misconstrued as being aloof. My perfectionism prevents me from trying something new.
|Women Ironing – Degas|
Degas suffered from a degenerative eye condition. At the height of his career, he had to shield his eyes from bright light. He was known for wearing blue spectacles, which helped dim the sun when walking outside during the day. Over the years, his eyesight grew worse and worse, as evidenced by his paintings. Pastels are more forgiving than oils – and the soft “impressions” of ballerinas replaced the fine detail of their movements in earlier works.
While Degas is most known for his Ballerina paintings, he also enjoyed painting horse races (again, he loved capturing the graceful movement of the powerhouse animals), and everyday life of ordinary people. Some say his paintings are like peering through the keyhole to spy on life within.