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Edgar Degas and his different view of Impressionism

Art has always been a reflection of one’s idea throughout our history. It is expressed in many different forms, such as paintings, sculptures, drawings, illustrations, photographs, architecture and etc. It has transitioned from style to style and developed into distinct perceptions of art at different periods of time. Artists throughout history has influenced and moved us forward from time to time with their new techniques, methods, and materials as they produced art in their own way. In such, Art movements and their artists has been the fundamental support of the following generation of artists. Edgar Degas was one of the most influential impressionist back in the 19TH century, at a time when impressionism wasn’t recognized as real art by academic art at the time. Degas’ view of impressionism was different from other impressionists. He had a preference of human condition rather than nature in his works and resulted in what was seen as alternative impressionism.

Impressionism is considered an artistic rebellion to the common standards of art in the late 19th century. It is most commonly referring to a group of French artists who established their own exhibition using their sketchy and light filled paintings. The group of Impressionism artists included Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred, Sisley, Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas. Unlike any other artists at the time, they discarded the traditionalist style of art which often focused on realistic and historically calculated scene. Instead of painting from an emotional point of view, Impressionists were known for using bright, unmixed colors to illustrate luminosity in their painting. The use of light is to convey the idea of time, and changes in the atmosphere. They often like to paint outdoors in order to capture the essence of natural light as one of the greatest feature of Impressionism. Also, they often pay less attention on details to illustrate the “captured moments” like that of a camera’s snapshot of the fleeting moments in the flow of daily life. As a result, the style was characterized by short quick brushstrokes which show a messy and unreal impression in contrast to the traditional art. Amongst the many known Impressionists who mastered this form of art at the time was Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas was a French artist, one of the most influential impressionists of all time. He was one of the Impressionists’ group founders, an organizer of the Impressionist exhibitions, and one of its core members to promote Impressionism in the late 19th century. However, he was different from other Impressionists in both background and style. Edgar Degas was born in the 1834 in Paris. Degas’ father was a wealthy banker and an artist. Therefore, Degas and his father both showed great interest in art. Since Degas was young, he has visited numerous museums, theatres and concert halls and indulged himself in all sort of art related subjects such as ballet and opera. Overall, his life history proves that the foundation of his being specifically involved on the desire to strongly impose on his works his actual interpretation of the subjects he hopes to explore made a great indication on his belief on the principles of impressionism in the form of art.  It could be understood that somehow, the manner of presentation that Degas embraces is specifically reflective of his emotion and his understanding on how powerful art is in representing his being and the way he thinks.

Different from other Impressionists, Edgar Degas regarded human figures and movements highly in his works, disregarding other Impressionist’s views to capture outdoor activities with the use natural light. Degas was not fascinated by nature and the outdoors. Instead, he would confine himself to working in studios, and often stayed indoors for days to sketch. Degas early modernized style captured horses and actresses as he was engulfed with capturing contemporary subjects that interested him in his daily life. Often, Degas would calmly observe and capture instant action of ballet dancers in both Ballet Theatre, backstage and rehearsal studio. Degas’ exceptional use of dramatic light and simple abstract line form to capture the ballet dancers’ movement was what made Degas’ Impressionist style unique and different from other Impressionist in that era.

In Edgar Degas’ late career, he focused on working with female nude figures and to capture the line form of such figures. He worked harder than anyone else with nude painting and was constantly researching different recourse to gain acceptance of nude drawing from the academic art at that time.  Unlike any other Impressionists, he focused almost exclusively on dancers and nudes in his works. Pastel has also become his favorite medium used to capture the subjects, stylized with sketchy and colorful strokes in his view of Impressionism. Degas became known for his unique description of his subjects, which included depictions of ballet dancers and woman movements, which portrayed his experimental use of medium and vivid use of color. He uses such style to make an indication that natural art is the actual art. This insists on the fact that Degas does not only recognize impressionism as a representation of his actual expression of his being, but instead, it also allows him to be realistic in representing the subjects of interest that he uses in most of his works. The nude figures of women seemed to be the most effective way of defining style, line and natural beauty as it is. Most likely, it could be assumed that his concentration on the subject of women’s bodies during the last parts of his art’s development defines the assumption that he has towards natural art and how it is defined through the human body. Using clear hues and specifically well-defined lines, he indicates the natural beauty that is represented through the details that makeup womanhood. Part of the beauty that he represents also insists on the view that he has towards the women he paints especially when it comes to the manner by which the society recognizes womanhood during the time of his art’s creation. This could be better identified through his work ‘the Dancers’.

“The Dancers” from Edgar Degas is a pastel drawing that demonstrates Impressionism in the late 19th century. In contrast to classical art, it was painted with unusual perspectives, complex formal structures and vivid use of color and medium. It is a masterpiece produced in his later career. “The Dancer” consisted of three dancers in a snap shot like manner, frozen in their movements. In this drawing Degas captured the three dancers who are stretching and getting ready for the performance by the walls. He depicted the dancers with defined forms with short, vigorous strokes of pastel in bold and playful colors. The bold and colorful costumes of dancers were enliven in contrast to the natural background and experimented with an array of techniques, contrasting dry pastel with wet. The color has reinforced the movements with simple forms of line. The white chalk enhanced the surface of the dancer’s dress like strings of dazzling pearls. “The Dancer” demonstrated Degas’s devotion to ballet dancers, infatuation with the women figure and his exploration of movement, light, and color. It also demonstrated Degas’ mix use of visual observation and memory to produce a frozen moment of time to portray them accurately while still imparting a sense of movement.

The fondness of Degas towards the subject of women and dancing shows how much he admires both form and figure as a representation of real art. Inculcating into his work the amalgamation of the different styles of painting [which includes the Japanese style of utilizing both hard and soft color hues in one element to bring about a sense of imagery into the art], Degas was able to capture not only the forms, but also the life that each element in his work represents. To even make his approach into painting the dancers more intricate and original, he makes sure that the attention of the audience would be focused on the dancers alone. To do this, he makes use of odd spaces to represent the interiors of his background. Although the approach still seemingly invites the audience to think about the background or the interior that surrounds the dancers, it shoves off the attention towards the wonderful form and style that he uses to make each ballerina stand out in the picture.

Degas once said “It is very good to copy what one sees; it is much better to draw what you can’t see any more but is in your memory. It is a transformation in which imagination and memory work together. You only reproduce what struck you, that is to say the necessary.” By the late 1880s, Degas’s eyesight had begun to fail. It was assumed by critics that is was perhaps a result of an injury incurred during his service in the Franco-Prussian War. Degas’ method on drawing incorporated both visual and memory, disregarding Monet and other Impressionists’ idea of sketch what you see visually. This different take on Impressionism, though, perhaps a consequence of Degas increasing blindness, inspired many artists through present day. His expertise in capturing the image of the dynamics of movement, with the mix use of observation and memory, and accurate sketch skills, resulted in a unique alternative of Impressionism. This approach of Impressionism and especially his later works has enlightened artists today.

In conclusion, Edgar Degas is one of the most influential artists of all time as he pioneered and pushed forward the Impressionists movement with his unique view of Impressionism during that time. Just as he had graduated from his classical skills and traditionalist’s style of art to Impressionism, Degas was always seeking new ways of pushing the boundaries of art by trying to understand how best the world around him could be translated through his vision and captured in his work. As a result he was constantly exploring and experimenting with new techniques, methods, mediums and even disregarding other Impressionists regards to the beauty of nature and its’ arrangement of natural light. Rather, he preferred the indoors and artificial stage lighting created by human. Degas infatuation with the human figure in capturing movements and lights was absolute in his great collection in paintings, drawings and sculptures. If Manet was the father of impressionism, and Monet was its heart, Degas was unquestionably its eyes and its mind with his unique envision of Impressionism that make him indifferent and influential as an alternative Impressionist.

Being an impressionist, Degas made sure that his legacy in the industry of art would not only affect the way that other artists see the value of his works but would also make a distinctive source of inspiration for those wanting to explore more about ‘personal’ art which reflects their being and not simply their art as it is. Other artists have relatively taken particular reflection on how they are able to give their own impression on the elements that they are representing in each of their works. The value on the application of the principles of realism could also be considered as one of his contributions to the industry. The portraits of the nude women that he created served as basis of what is real and what is relatively natural. The appreciation that he has over the condition of reality that is included in most of his works inspire other artists to follow the same pattern and specifically explore every detail that could enhance the style and the indication of natural beauty in each element included in particular works of art.