Saturday, January 14, 2012

Visual 2: Edgar Degas - Eyes and The Demimonde

Perhaps more than any other artist associated with impressionism, Degas was a great chronicler of contemporary city life. What Degas wanted was artificial life, not natural life, which prompted him to step away from traditional subjects and nature. His works instead focused on a particular section of Parisian society known as the "Demimonde," or "Halfway World."

In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was the center of opulent and decadent society, from cafe life, the ballet, and even the circus. Degas was attracted to the circus and, in particular, to a Miss La La:

Miss La La stunned the members of the Demimonde when she joined Cirque Fernando and amazed Paris with her ability to hold a cannon on a chain from her teeth while hanging from a trapeze, earning her the name "La Femme Canon." (Doesn't actually have much to do with Degas, I just thought it was cool)

One of the biggest things you can notice if you look over some of Degas' Series (such as his long stretch of paintings titled "After the Bath"), is that Degas seemed to loose a large amount of detail as his oeuvre (French for "I want to sound fancy") progressed --

One of my favorite theories behind Degas' loss of detail (and, it's theorized, the loss of many impressionists' detail) was nearsightedness, and in Degas' case, cataracts. The timeline for the release of several of his works, as well as the progression from paintings similar to those above into those similar to those below, strongly suggests that Degas suffered from cataracts.

It's cool to think about what the world looked like through the eyes of such genius painters. Did Picasso really see the way he painted? Was everything lines and circles to Kandinsky? Was everything boxes and primary colors for Mondrian? Well, those are ridiculous examples, but it's interesting to think that even as Degas lost his eyesight he continued to paint the world around him...

Oh hey, speaking of Kandinsky...

1 comment:

  1. There was a real separation between nudity and art back in the day. I wish are society wasn't so uptight...