I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts on Sunday, November 15, 2009. I had previously been to the DIA several times before to spend my leisure time glancing at the artwork there. I would meander down the hallways and corridors, almost as if I were window shopping. I would briskly walk past the exhibits that were dull and uninteresting to me such as the Early American and African American galleries. I momentarily pause in the Medieval section to admire the shiny amour and intricate designs on the swords. For this assignment, I told my self this time was going to be different.
This time I would see more that just paintings and sculptures. I would look for form and technique. I would try to see the mood that the art was conveying. So began my great journey. A painting that I did enjoy was The Last Supper by Jean-Baptiste de Cham-paigne. It was intriguing to find that the artist had a strong ancient Roman influence in his rendition of the event. Another painting I also enjoyed how dramatic Peter Paul Reubens made The Meeting of David and Abigail. I could really see the difference be-tween David’s aggressive army meeting with Abigail and her humble servants for the first time.
The painting that I choose for my paper is Dancers in the Green Room by Edgar Degas. The artwork is in the European painting gallery. It was painted in 1879 with oil on canvas. It is a painting from the Impressionist Era hung on the wall. The scene is of many ballerinas and a cello apparently backstage before a per-formance. At first glance, the painting seems very dull and fuzzy. The colors in the art-work are mostly pastel with a few dark hues. After studying the artwork for sometime, I could feel the back story. The ballerinas are the focus of the painting, but they are unaware.
Their backs are turned because they have no need to acknowledge the artist. They are so involved in warming up for their performance, Degas seems to not even exist in their realm. He cap-tures the form of the ballerinas by the delicate strokes of their arched backs and the im-peccable toe pointe. Although most of the hard lines are blurred, the emphasis is made that this group of women are professional dancers. Degas must have observed the dancers from the corner of the room, just outside the changing area. At the foreground is a forgotten cello, not to be used in the perform-ance.
It has become a footstool for the dancer to adjust her shoe on. Then there are two other dancer still adjusting their costumes. Degas has captured the exact fluffiness of a tulle skirt with help from the Impressionist influence. The dancers in the back are much smaller indicating that they are at the other end of the room. They have already begun to warm up as indicated by their graceful poses in the mirror. The artist uses smooth, grace-ful lines to capture the exact pose. The mood of the painting is very serious. There is no indication of any humor with the dancers from what you can see in their faces.
No of the ballerinas are paying at-tention to the artist. They are completely concentrated on prepping on their upcoming performance. With most Impressionist paintings, this is very common to ignore the artist. He only captured a brief moment that had become his impression of the event. Like most of the future Impressionists, Degas choose more pastel shades. But, un-like his colleagues, who were experimenting with painting more outdoor scenes, Degas showed dislike toward the the more popular scenes of outdoor landscape studies for which many of the Impressionists became known.
Between 1873 and 1883 Degas had made many of his paintings and pastels of the racecourse, music hall, cafe, and ballet. Over the course of his career, he painted hundred of ballerinas. He claimed that the pub-lic demanded it (Oxford Art Online). The ballerinas of Degas’ time were very much iconic. Before people had televi-sion, they would go to the theater to see ballet performances. Ballerinas had the power to convey feelings and emotion through the are of dance. It was a very much revered pro-fession. It is no wonder that Degas painted such a scene, for it was pop culture for his time.
He did step out of the Impressionist box for the time. Most of his colleagues were painting landscapes and outdoor scenery, but Degas dared to be different and paint an in-side scene. I am very grateful to have studied his work. My opinion of Impressionist paintings has changed. I now see the fuzzy artworks as a story that has to come into focus by your mind. I can see the soft lines Degas used to create the graceful poses of the ballerinas. I can feel what he was feeling, to be a mere observer in their very busy, serious prep time. I do get a very calming feeling overall from painting. I hope that it will still be there when I return.