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Meet the Masters

Grade Four

ARTIST: PRINT:

DEGAS, EDGAR

(da-GAW, ed-GAHR)

BALLET SCHOOL CORCORAN GALLERY WASHINGTON, D.C.

(1834-1917)

Impressionism Date: circa 1873 Size: 19" x 24 5/8" Medium: Oil on Canvas

ARTIST - Degas was born in Paris, France, the son of a banker. When he was starting his career as a painter, Ingres, a famous painter, advised him. "Draw lines, young man, many lines, from memory or from nature. It is in this way that you will become a good painter." Degas took this advice and became a master of line drawing.

Degas was mainly interested in painting two subjects: women and horses. He liked to take note of women in many different poses and painted them in many occupations. His favorites were ballerinas. He was not interested in the ballerinas because they were pretty girls, nor in telling a story in his painting. He was interested in the way light and shade affected the human form. He was also interested in the way he could suggest movement and space in his art.

Degas' horses were usually drawn from models, but he also drew horses at the racetrack. Besides being a painter, Degas was also a sculptor.

Degas, born in Paris was an unusual man. He was near-sighted from birth and his eyesight got worse as he got older. He spent much of his time alone. He never married, and devoted himself to his art. When Degas got older he could no longer see fine pencil lines. He switched to using charcoal, crayon and chalk. His favorite medium was pastels, because of their fresh and bright colors. Later, he did mostly sculpture, which he could feel with his hands.

When Degas' father died, he left Degas a small inheritance. This money kept Degas from having to sell his paintings unless he so desired. He did not care to impress anyone, or sell to anyone. His finished paintings were stacked and piled around his studio.

PRINT - In the painting the Ballet School, he used both his drawing and painting skills when depicting his favorite subject - ballerinas. Here the ballerinas are captured in a variety of different poses and exercises. Degas also liked to look at his subject from new and unexpected angles. This was one of the ways he used to bring the observer into the pictorial space. In the Ballet School, the frame cuts off the spiral staircase, the doors in the background, and the figures in the right foreground. The figures are not centered and we almost feel as if we were in the room also. He also uses large flat areas of color and prefers the bright, fresh colors associated with the Impressionists.

PORTFOLIO A PAIRED WITH:

CHAGALL THE ACROBAT

166

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