About the exhibition
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement comprises around 85 paintings, sculptures, pastels, drawings, prints and photographs by Degas, as well as photographs by his contemporaries and examples of early film. It brings together selected material from public institutions and private collections in Europe and North America including both celebrated and little-known works by Degas.
Highlights of the exhibition include such masterpieces as the celebrated sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1880-81, cast. c.1922, Tate, London), which will be displayed with a group of outstanding preparatory drawings that together show the artist tracking around his subject like a cinematic eye; Dancer Posing for a Photograph (1875, Pushkin State Museum of Art, Moscow); Dancer on Pointe (c. 1877-78, Private collection); The Dance Lesson (c. 1879, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); Dancers in a Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass (c. 1882-85, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); and Three Dancers (c. 1903, Beyeler Foundation, Basel).
The exhibition explores the fascinating links between Degas’s highly original way of viewing and recording the dance and the inventive experiments being made at the same time in photography by Jules-Etienne Marey and Eadweard Muybridge and in film-making by such pioneers as the Lumière brothers. By presenting the artist in this context, the exhibition will demonstrate that Degas was far more than merely the creator of beautiful images of the ballet, but instead a modern, radical artist who thought profoundly about visual problems and was fully attuned to the technological developments of his time.
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas was born in Paris in 1834. His father was a banker from a Neapolitan family and his mother a French Créole from New Orleans. After studying briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Degas travelled in Italy, largely teaching himself by copying works of art in museums and churches. From 1865 to 1870 he regularly submitted large historical compositions to the Salon, but in around 1870 he began to concentrate on subjects from modern life, including the dance. A leader of the Impressionists, Degas exhibited regularly at their group exhibitions. Apart from the dance, racehorses and bathing women were his principal subjects. Increasing blindness forced Degas to give up working in around 1912. He died in Montmartre in 1917.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement has been curated by Richard Kendall, Curator at Large, The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA; Jill DeVonyar, independent curator; and Ann Dumas, Exhibition Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.
List of objects proposed for protection under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (protection of cultural objects on loan)