The Royal Academy of Arts
presents a landmark exhibition focusing on Edgar Degas's preoccupation with movement as an artist of the dance. Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement traces the development of the artist's ballet imagery throughout his career, from the documentary mode of the early 1870s to the sensuous expressiveness of his final years. The exhibition is the first to present Degas's progressive engagement with the figure in movement in the context of parallel advances in photography and early film; indeed, the artist was keenly aware of these technological developments and often directly involved with them. The exhibition comprises around 85 paintings, sculptures, pastels, drawings, prints and photographs by Degas, as well as photographs by his contemporaries and examples of early film. It brings together selected material from public institutions and private collections in Europe and North America including both celebrated and little-known works by Degas.
Highlights of the exhibition include such masterpieces as the celebrated sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1880-81, cast. c.1922, Tate, London), which is displayed with a group of outstanding preparatory drawings that together show the artist tracking around his subject like a cinematic eye; Dancer Posing for a Photograph (1875, Pushkin State Museum of Art, Moscow); Dancer on Pointe (c. 1877-78, Private collection); The Dance Lesson (c. 1879, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); Dancers in a Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass (c. 1882-85, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); and Three Dancers (c. 1903, Beyeler Foundation, Basel).
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement explores the fascinating links between Degas's highly original way of viewing and recording the dance and the inventive experiments being made at the same time in photography by Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge and in film-making by such pioneers as the Lumière brothers. By presenting the artist in this context, the exhibition demonstrates that Degas was far more than merely the creator of beautiful images of the ballet, but instead a modern, radical artist who thought profoundly about visual problems and was fully attuned to the technological developments of his time.
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas was born in Paris in 1834. His father was a banker and his mother a FrenchCréole from New Orleans. After studying briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Degas travelled in Italy, largely teaching himself by copying works of art in museums and churches. From 1865 to 1870 he regularly submitted large historical compositions to the Salon, but in around 1870 he began to concentrate on subjects from modern life, including the dance. A leader of the Impressionists, Degas exhibited regularly at their group exhibitions. Apart from the dance, racehorses and bathing women were his principal subjects. Increasing blindness forced Degas to give up working in around 1912. He died in Montmartre in 1917.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement has been curated by Richard Kendall, Curator at Large, The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA; Jill DeVonyar, independent curator; and Ann Dumas, Exhibition Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.
Michael Cole-Fontayn, Chairman of EMEA, BNY Mellon said, "With Degas and the Ballet, the Royal Academy continues to demonstrate a high level of scholarship and inventiveness in bringing top quality art to London. Despite the challenging environment for arts funding in the UK, this exhibition will demonstrate why London continues to be a global leader in artistic education. BNY Mellon is very proud to be supporting the RA and this remarkable body of work."