We’re sure you’ve noticed the latest set of banners to pop up beside the National Gallery of Victoria’s water wall – and he’s cited as being one of the most celebrated and influential artists associated with French Impressionism – but just who is Edgar Degas?
Now might be a better opportunity than ever to find out, as NGV has put together the most comprehensive representation of the artist’s work in decades. Having been in talks since 1999, Degas: A New Vision, collating more than 200 original works from dozens of collections worldwide, is the most complex of NGV’s Winter Masterpieces series as yet – and you’ll definitely notice it pack a punch, with layers upon layers of different mediums, work finished and (more often) unfinished, and many items having made the trek to become exclusive Australian premieres.
Most importantly, you’ll go on the emotional journey that was Degas’ relationship with art. Constantly experimental, continuously thoughtful, his work is famously unfinished – often abandoned works in progress – offering the comforting feeling that, hey, it can be cool to not know what you’re doing.
But don’t get us wrong; his subjects are by no means sunshine and daises. Ambitiously referring to his work as “pictures,” not “paintings,” and himself as more of a Realist than an Impressionist, Degas set out to capture the raw psychology of a scene through mini slices-of-life: it’s all too easy to fall into one of his paintings and feel what was felt there, despite the ambiguity of the situation (we challenge you to imagine for yourself, before reading the explanation!).
In addition to challenges like this, and through a seemingly endless array of mediums, styles, subjects and levels-of-completeness, he consistently offered new ideas to anyone who would take a peek into his work – a service that only proves more valuable as time goes on. So, take a chance and open your mind – you could be the next definer of modern sculpture… that, or, just a more awesome you.
Degas: A New Vision (with the exception of one brand new acquisition!) can be seen at NGV International only until September 18, during normal opening hours and Friday Nights at NGV. Hot tip: in honour of Degas, the Australian Ballet will be performing a stunning program at the gallery throughout the season.
Christine is an avid blogger, photographer and pop-culture-indulger. When she’s not practising Japanese or Korean (or dreaming of being in those respective countries!), you’ll find her sharing her love of Melbourne on her instagram.