Yesterday I went to see Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement at the Royal Academy of Arts. There are many reasons to like this exhibition – certainly the catalogue is pretty amazing and the focus on the work and intellectual research by Degas behind the artworks is very well presented. One major highlight is the collection of 26 sketches for the Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans which he drew while rotating around her.
However, in this dissection of the study and thought process, I found that the simple beauty of the artworks got a bit lost, and so the balance between the effort to understand and represent the movement (the dynamic tension and all that) and the ability to catch the fragility, femininity and concentration of the girls at the same time. I completely agree with the review by the Independent (which obviously explains everything much better than I do). I would rather spend my 20 pounds (!) for the ticket to read all that in a good essay but then enjoy the works without this strict guidance.
There is a section which compares Degas’ work with pioneering contemporary photographers. This includes the film above by the Lumière Brothers which was coloured ‘in post-production’, as we would say. It’s pretty amazing and I’d like to share it.