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.
posted by ChuraChura (3 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have to say, those look exactly like photographs by Degas. The subjects, the cropping... Thanks for posting these.
posted by acrasis at 8:49 AM on July 10, 2016

Yes, very cool! Thanks! I did not know that he took photographs. It's interesting to see old gas (early electric??) lights and how they illuminated the photos.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 9:57 AM on July 10, 2016

That essay is dope. Thanks for posting!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:56 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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