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May 17, 2016

Mid-Morning Open Thread [Y-not]


Edgar Degas (French, 1834 - 1917)
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878-1881
(pigmented beeswax, clay, metal armature, rope, paintbrushes, human hair, silk and linen ribbon, cotton faille bodice, cotton and silk tutu, linen slippers, on wooden base)

Read about the work here:

Now adored, this original wax version of Edgar Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was reviled by most critics when it was shown at the 1881 impressionist exhibition in Paris. Art critic Elie de Mont was flabbergasted: "I don't ask that art should always be elegant, but I don't believe that its role is to champion the cause of ugliness." The diminutive figure, the only sculpture Degas exhibited publicly, was described variously as "repulsive," "vicious," and "a threat to society." Modeled in colored wax and adorned with real hair and a fabric costume, Little Dancer decisively broke with 19th-century academic practice by introducing unusual mixed materials and frankly representing a provocative modern subject; Degas added to the controversy by exhibiting it like an anthropological specimen in a glass vitrine.

More here:

According to his dealer, Joseph Durand-Ruel, Degas created sculptures for more than 40 years. Yet the artist rarely mentioned these works in his notebooks or correspondence, and most of the other relevant documentary sources are posthumous or secondhand. Acknowledging this gap, the National Gallery catalogue compiles a broad new range of physical evidence and cutting-edge technical analysis of Degas's sculptural production, providing a turning point in our appreciation of this elusive artist.

Barbour and Sturman confirm that most of Degas's sculptures were modeled from colored beeswax, air-dried clay, and plastiline, a nondrying clay. These materials were sometimes combined in different proportions and built up around improvised handmade armatures. Interiors of the forms were frequently bulked up with wine corks, which are surprisingly effective in mitigating the weight of the interior mass. Degas began modeling with pellets or rods of beeswax, sometimes applied in layers to build an entire figure, but more often used as cladding over a core of wires, clay, organic materials, or plaster. Using his fingers or special spatulas, he created a range of surface textures to engage absorbed and reflected light.

Degas also worked in plaster, sometimes with the assistance of professional moldmakers. His plaster composition Woman Rubbing Her Back with a Sponge, Torso, for example, turns out to be a pastiche of separately modeled body parts of slightly different scales, joined together with a complex piece-molding process. Head Resting on One Hand, Bust was recently discovered to be a plaster cast, probably made from an earlier version of the sculpture. Details such as the figure's lace collar, however, appear to be modeled directly in the plaster.

This new information suggests that these sculptures should be understood as a separate genre of production, distinct from two other plaster casts made during Degas's lifetime.

Degas was a flawed person, sadly, but his artwork is amazing.

You can explore the sculpture in more detail here. **NOTE: This is a bronze cast from the wax original displayed above.**

Related: Has anyone seen the production of Little Dancer?

Open thread.

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posted by Open Blogger at 10:10 AM

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