These days, Degas abandons himself entirely to photography
July 10, 2016 6:11 AM Subscribe
Degas is best-known for his paintings of dancers - but he also photographed them.
Much of what's on view at first looks basically straightforward, only to seem after a while complex and kind of odd. I don't mean compositionally odd. The oddity is more psychological. Degas's double-exposed portraits of friends, the Halevys, Taschereaus and Niaudets, for example, present us with rows of heads that seem to float in the air. A picture of Louise Halevy, as if in a trance, reclining on a sofa, eyes shut, makes the vaporous glare of a lamp at her feet into another sort of spooky apparition.---
The period during which Degas worked was extraordinarily turbulent in Europe, especially for France, as it was the onset of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Commune insurrection in 1871. The Civil War that followed affected the country for decades. As art and artists are often the story tellers of a civilization’s decadence or cultural beneficence, we find in Edgar Degas’s work as a painter first and later for a brief year of his life when he used photography as a creative medium, an aristocrat who left a record of his own society’s indulgences, but who also found some form of comfort among the working class as their witness and interloper.
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