Edgar Degas, Danseuse assise se massant le pied [detail], 1881-1883 © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Edgar Degas, Danseuse assise se massant le pied [detail] 1881-1883 © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

On the centenary of the death of Edgar Degas, the Musée d’Orsay pays tribute to the master with a unique exhibition charting his 20-year friendship with writer, poet and thinker Paul Valéry.

The carefully chosen artworks and documents on display show these men and their social interaction, with their love for dance and horseracing. Degas’ numerous drawings and Valéry’s famous notebooks reveal the importance of these works, which were, for both, the crucible of their art.

Featuring Degas’s drawings and sketches, and extracts from Valéry’s fundamental work on his friend’s oeuvre, the book published in 1937 Degas Danse Dessin, the exhibit threads a tight narrative, delving into their social interaction and creative kinship. Fiercely independent, Degas rejected the label of ‘Impressionist’ and delighted in wrong-footing critics. His autonomy came in part from his inherited wealth, which gave him the freedom to dip in and out of the Paris art scene and sell paintings at his own discretion.

Fascinated by the human form, he strove to capture unusual angles and poses in his many depictions of ballet dancers. Starting a dialogue between Valéry’s text and Degas’s work, the exhibition offers an insight into the artist’s aesthetic and his fondness for the worlds of dance and horseracing, while drawing parallels with the writer’s own search for line and movement.

Degas Danse Dessin, showing at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris until February 25.
Website: www.musee-orsay.fr

From France Today magazine
Related article: American Friends of Musée d’Orsay

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