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Beauty,Spring 2005
Third Web Papers
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Dancing Degas

Amanda Glendinning

Walking around the Barnes Foundation, I have been drawn to a number of pictures: Renoir's, Cézanne's, Matisse's, religious. The overall draw of the Foundation is not only the individual artwork, but also the aesthetics of combinations that Dr. Albert Barnes created. While walking through, eyes are drawn from one masterpiece to the next until they are unable to comprehend anymore, and yet still must look. This overwhelming creation allows me to take in fantastic art, and also allows me to personalize it. By doing this, I found two Degas pictures that drew me in.

There are walls arranged by Barnes himself of paintings, hinges, chests, and candlesticks, all blended together making an eye-appealing masterpiece. For example, in Gallery VII, on the South Wall, Barnes played off of the color orange. The hinges mirror the paintings, which include Plaza Auvers-sur-Oise by Cézanne, Washerwoman and Baby by Renoir, and Fruit and Blue Drapery by Cézanne. The orange in the Washerwoman painting brings out the oranges in the other paintings, which are all oil. The museum is a compilation of Impressionism, Realism, Medieval, Oriental, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Americanism. There are Greek and Native American pieces, miniature statues, paintings, and jewelry combined. There are even codexes. It is fascinating to look at the ethnohistorical artifacts mixed with "art." While many would not see the connection between these different genres, Barnes did and introduces it to the viewers.

In Gallery IX, on the South Wall, there is a combination of ten different paintings. They are placed as follows: 1) Girl with Jumping Rope by Renoir, 2) Le Pont de Sèvres by Sisley, 3) Etretat, the Sea by Matisse, 4) Beach at Etretat by Matisse, 5) Head of Two Girls by Renoir, 6) Claude in Arabic Shirt by Renoir, 7) Woman with Hat Reading by Renoir, 8) Summer by Renoir, 9) Girl in Balcony at Cagney by Renoir, and 10) House Boat by Monet.

9 4 2 3 7

10 6 1 5 8

The placement of these pieces was very carefully thought out. Throughout there is a connection of white ripples. Sisley's painting is reminiscent of Cézanne's style. In paintings three and four, the same cliffs are pictured. In pictures five and six, there is a similar red tint just as in paintings seven and nine, there is a pink hue. These combinations are what really make the Barnes Foundation a spectacular place.

My favorite wall had only four pictures, two of which were Degas. The other two pictures, which were above the Degas but separated by wall and windows, were by Louis Marcousis. Above the Marcoursis paintings were mirrored hinges. I stared at the wall for a while and yet would be unable to tell what was pictured in the Marcousis paintings. I was focused on Degas who draws me more than others.

I am not sure if it is my history of dance or that my mother was a ballerina or the style, but Degas's pieces fascinate me. In January of 2004, I visited the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco which was featuring a Degas exhibit. Seeing Degas's sculptures and paintings awed me. Born, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas on July 19, 1834, he was the son of a banker and was supposed to be a lawyer. He was drawn though to art and ended up in art school. He was a realist and impressionist painter who said, "Art is vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it" ( authors/e/edgar_degas.html). His love of art ensured that, especially after his death, his popularity would grow.

Degas painted horses, women, and singers, but was most famous for his ballerinas. After 1880, when he began to lose his eyesight, he moved into sculpture and pastels, but nothing would stop his artwork. His work "reflects a concern for the psychology of movement and expression, the harmony of line and continuity of contour" ( Degas would sketch from live models (who then were considered prostitutes) in his study and then combine the sketches and poses into rehearsal and performance scenes. His art features natural poses of movement and grace. He believed, "Nothing in art should seem accidental, not even movement" ( His specialties were seen in the two pictures that I greatly admired from the Barnes Foundation.

The first picture, on the left of the wall, is entitled, Group of Dancers. It is a pastel on paper. In it, there are three ballerinas, each with their brown hair in buns. Their skin is pale and pink and their dresses are multi-toned yellow. Their toe-shoes are pink and tied, and the shoulders are bare, reflecting the different tones of the skin. The background has a fire feel. What is unique about this pastel, as well as the other one that I will describe, are the dark lines defining the ballerinas. Degas's paintings are not normally dark, but the dark lines of the women give it a dark tint. The women are huddled together and very intent on something. It appears that they are either getting their slippers on or looking at a soar foot or ankle. They might be chattering, but at this point they are at rest and not dancing. The painting captures Degas's belief. He said, "A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain, you end up boring people" ( masters/edgar-degas/degas-quotes.htm). This painting does not spell out what the ballerina's are doing and thus creates "a little mystery."

The second picture is called Three Ballet Dancers, One with Dark Crimson Waist. This was done in 1899 and is pastel on paper. It focuses on one ballerina with two in the background. Again, in this picture, there are dark tones. It is more of a sketch. The colors are haphazardly thrown in, not covering all of the paper, which has a tan tint. The main ballerina has a pink leotard and the facial expressions of all three are only somewhat defined. The gestures of the dancers create a warm flow. The main girl has one arm up and one bent behind her back. The background hints at a green bush.

Both of these pictures draw me through their beautiful artwork. The impressionist and realistic styles are gorgeous. I did sketches of the pictures and in doing so realized that the lines and shapes draw me in more than the colors, which are somewhat lacking. The other Degas that caught my eye at the Barnes Foundation is entitled Dancers with Hair in Braids which is also a pastel. Degas's work reaches out to me and allows me to enjoy it as art and as conductors of memory.

Three Ballet Dancers

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