Edgar Degas: More than Ballerinas

I love writings these packets up at times: introducing people to artists and art. But sometimes, I have blind spots. Degas = ballerinas. no biggie. At least for me.

But some people don’t like ballet. Or ballerinas.

Like some of my friends who have classes dominated by boys.

Now, I want to say that dancers are some of the strongest, most dynamic athletes, yes, athletes, out there. But some people can’t see past the frilly costumes. Which is hysterical in a way, since Degas himself once said,

”  People call me the painter of dancing girls. It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes. “

So even Degas loved the pretty frilly dresses.

But he did do more than dancers. He painted horses, singers, circus performers with the same sense of action. He painted landscapes which had…well, less action. It’s not like the landscapes move.

So, if you’d like to see more examples of Degas’s work, I put together a little packet with some of his horse paintings and a sculpture. Horses, horse racing and horses and riders are probably the second-most common theme in Degas’s work. And in the end, I think it’s better it introduce Degas with as little barrier as possible. Don’t like ballet? Check this out! Hopefully, as people grow and mature, they will come back and see the dynamic strength and beauty of the ballet paintings too.

And, in discussing this issue “My class doesn’t want to paint ballerinas,” with my husband, he made an excellent point: if Degas was obsessed with dancers and horses in order to catch their sense of movement, why not paint break dancers, or modern dancers, or athletes in action poses?

Degas tried to capture motion in the same way a photo did. In fact, he sometimes cropped figures in half, or had things or people entering or leaving the picture “frame” in order to mimic the then-new style of candid snapshot photography.

So, I went through a public domain image repository and looked up some athletes and dancers. Other sources might be sports books or magazines, or books about the Olympics, or anything like that. Degas liked motion. He liked sparkly clothes. But it is more important to look at the motion itself. So I threw together these addendum packets and hope they will help.

Process-not product. That’s the Way. Joyful Drawing!

C2W15 Degas Horse addendum   (This Packet has three additional works by Degas focusing on his horse and rider theme) 

Degas action shots   (This Packet has MODERN ACTION PHOTOS, no works by Degas, but I think these action poses capture a lot of what Degas himself tried to capture.  You can use these as reference images, or as examples of what Degas tried to capture. )