Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dancers at Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

I have this really cool A Year in Art book that has been sitting in my office all alone and untouched for almost a semester and a half. I had it propped up on the shelf for decor purposes, but today I felt inspired to take it down and see what painting was [emblematic] chosen for today. I feel the start of a new feature to compliment one of my favorites blogs, progress on the prairie's, Sunday Art Chat.

Edgar Degas's Dancers at Rehearsal, 1885-1890, is accompanied with a quote by the artist: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."Firstly, I think this painting is quite pretty. I know that Degas has a number of canvases that detail the life of the ballet girls, and before cracking this book, I had not seen this particular one before. According to the text, the painting is housed a the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, which may have something to do with it not being seen by me; nevertheless, I do think this is one of the more interesting entries in the ballet series. I like the angle of the gaze in this painting. With the little wooden feature that covers the upper-right hand corner, I feel that the view is obstructed slightly because it is almost a clandestine gaze going on. Do these girls know that they are being watched? Certainly, this is a question I had after pondering the image for a while. Another would be, what is the connection between the groups in the painting? The sort of begging, enchanting gesture of the group on the left seems at odds by the nonchalance perpetrated by the group in the far left, and yet, this perfectly captures the sense/schemes of rehearsal that go on.

As far as the quote that accompanies the painting, how true. I think I understand what Degas is saying. When one is a pedestrian in a certain field, it is easy to learn and master because as a newcomer, you know so little. And yet, as a master of a particular field, it is so much harder to learn how to improve because you have often commanded so many skills up until a certain point. In a way, for me at least, Degas's quote sort of explains a little bit of this anxiety I have been having about grad school. It is like you reach this point, and you know there is something beyond it, and reaching the next point becomes harder and more obscure. I'm reminded of a recent blog/note from a friend, "How much can my writing style change by this point?" (I'm paraphrasing/inventing just a bit.) And I have been feeling a little bit of the same. I have been in school for almost 20 years, I have done this whole college thing, and what now?

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