London show reinvents Degas' study of ballerinas

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A new exhibition opening in London on Saturday attempts to take a fresh look at Edgar Degas' paintings and sculptures of ballerinas, among the best-known works of the French Impressionists.

"Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement" at the Royal Academy of Art features around 85 works, and examines the artist's lifelong obsession with picturing movement.

"Degas said that he took ballet as a pretext to depict movement," said the show's curator Richard Kendall. "He was a highly experimental artist."

The exhibition shows Degas' delight when he acquired his first camera in 1895 at the age of 61.

"We know from letters to his friends that he was very excited. He immediately started messing around with it," Kendall said.

The show traces the key influences on Degas' works, such as the revolutionary work of British photographer Eadweard Muybridge and Frenchman Etienne-Jules Marey.

As the artist's life drew to a close his final paintings of ballerinas are among the most reflective, the deliberately blurred images showing the young women massaging their tired feet.

"He seems liberated from earlier concerns. The dancers themselves slowed down as Degas slowed down, but it's full of energy," Kendall said.

Many of the pastel works and drawings on display are too fragile to be shown for more than three months so the exhibition will not move on to other galleries after it closes on December 11.

© 2011 AFP

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