DEGAS and the Ballet – Picturing movement

I was anticipating an inspiring experience with this exhibition and it did not disappoint.

Degas is a favourite artist of mine mainly because of his use of pastels.  I find the vibrancy and layers of colours in his pastel work just breathtaking. It was such a joy to see these assembled together and to have the opportunity to just revel in the beauty of the images and composition.  I was really intrigued when reading the catalogue to find that he used a method of ‘fixing’ each layer of pastel and then applying another over the top.  In my work on the Drawing 1 course I had also hit on this method when I was trying to find a way of bringing colour through other colours. (I was at the time working on images of the woods in winter and wanted to find a way of expressing the infinite variety of colours and tones which were present in the dullest browns and greys.  I found that by fixing each layer, I was able to leave underneath colours exposed without losing the intensity of the colours applied over it.)  It was exciting for me to see that Degas also had grappled with the same problem and had found the same solution.

I loved his compositions!  Very often there were large expanses of bare spaces in the centre with figures arranged around the outside and yet he still took the viewer into the picture by his skilful use of colour.

Markmaking was great and I loved the vigour and energy of the pastel marks applied to the surface of the paper.  Fo me this added to the sense of movement of the figures as if the pastel was sweeping over the paper in time with the movement of the music and the figures.

Lastly I loved his passion for his subject.  There appears to be some controversy surrounding why he continued to paint the same subject over and over but for me this shows an obsession which I have felt in my own work. This obsession has resulted in a body of work which continues to delight and inspire.

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About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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