Event Title

Photographing the Ballerina in Paintings by Edgar Degas

Major

Art

Faculty Mentor

Elissa Auerbach

Abstract

In the late nineteenth century, a debate ensued related to the legitimacy of photography as an artistic medium. Could this new innovation do more than capture the appearances of images onto a flat, two-dimensional surface? Some artists believed in the creative capability photography could offer to artists, such as French photographer Robert Demachy, while on the other hand other artists and art critics, including Charles Baudelaire, argued that photographic images were simply exact representations of nature. Most photographs produced in the second half of the century depicted landscapes and formal portraits. Few photographers experimented with photography's expressive potential. Edgar Degas, the French Impressionist painter, was an exception. In his late career, he photographed his models as studies for his paintings of ballerinas. Scholars have argued that Degas was an amateur photographer whose photographs merely supplied him with information about the anatomy of the human body and effects of light. In this paper, I will examine how Degas's 1898 painting, A Group of Dancers, for the ways in which it deliberately distorts the fine line between painting and photography. Degas utilized elements of photography in this painting including the rule of thirds, the flat background, and the focus on texture. I argue that Degas's painting demonstrates knowledge of the aesthetics of photography beyond what scholars have claimed. By dissolving the boundaries between the two mediums, Degas engaged in the larger discourse about the authenticity of photography as a fine art.

Session Name:

The "It" Girl: Can-Can Dancers, Ballerinas, and Venus the Red-Head

Start Date

10-4-2015 9:00 AM

End Date

10-4-2015 10:00 AM

Location

HSB 211

This document is currently not available here.

Share

Import Event to Google Calendar

COinS
 
Apr 10th, 9:00 AM Apr 10th, 10:00 AM

Photographing the Ballerina in Paintings by Edgar Degas

HSB 211

In the late nineteenth century, a debate ensued related to the legitimacy of photography as an artistic medium. Could this new innovation do more than capture the appearances of images onto a flat, two-dimensional surface? Some artists believed in the creative capability photography could offer to artists, such as French photographer Robert Demachy, while on the other hand other artists and art critics, including Charles Baudelaire, argued that photographic images were simply exact representations of nature. Most photographs produced in the second half of the century depicted landscapes and formal portraits. Few photographers experimented with photography's expressive potential. Edgar Degas, the French Impressionist painter, was an exception. In his late career, he photographed his models as studies for his paintings of ballerinas. Scholars have argued that Degas was an amateur photographer whose photographs merely supplied him with information about the anatomy of the human body and effects of light. In this paper, I will examine how Degas's 1898 painting, A Group of Dancers, for the ways in which it deliberately distorts the fine line between painting and photography. Degas utilized elements of photography in this painting including the rule of thirds, the flat background, and the focus on texture. I argue that Degas's painting demonstrates knowledge of the aesthetics of photography beyond what scholars have claimed. By dissolving the boundaries between the two mediums, Degas engaged in the larger discourse about the authenticity of photography as a fine art.