From the depths of winter...memories of museums

As I sit here in what feels like the depths of winter, I’m dreaming of travels and museum visits. In this strange past year of covid, and currently with snow piled up outside, I’m sitting inside thinking of places I want to go, and places I used to go! My most recent museum trip was in October of 2020, when I visited the National Gallery in Washington D.C. for a special Edgar Degas exhibition. It’s no secret that I LOVE Degas. I’ve probably seen more works by Degas on my travels than almost any other artist. After months of no museum visits, the D.C. exhibition was almost like seeing an old friend! A big perk of Covid restrictions for museum visits…the galleries aren’t crowded! It is a very unique experience to walk through an exhibition with only a few other people in the same room. This never happened in the past, unless you went on a very obscure day and time. Even then, exhibitions for artists like Degas are still full of people! This exhibition contained paintings I’ve studied, admired and desired to see for a long time. While art on a screen can be inspiring, there’s just nothing that compares to standing in front of the painting.

I love to drink in the colors, and try to get inside the artists head to see why they made certain choices in the painting. I usually prefer to visit museums by myself, so I’m not holding people back with my slow pace of taking in an exhibition! This particular exhibition, Degas at the Opera, celebrated the 350th anniversary of the Paris Opera, and showcased over 100 works in print, pencil, pastel, and paint. What really struck me in this exhibition is Degas’s genius in what he decided to leave out of a painting. In my art education, I was taught that the art is in what you decide to edit out. The idea that the artist can pinpoint and recreate something with just enough information for the viewer is the genius of the artist, and the mystery of creating fine art. Degas was a master at leaving out details, but giving you everything he wanted you to see in the painting at the same time. Below are a few of my favorites from the exhibition! Read more about the exhibition here. Be sure to check out the audio links on the National Gallery website for more in-depth information about Degas! Museums need our support right now! Think about renewing your membership, or buying something from their online shop!


~Rachel

The striking thing to me about this painting is how much Degas captured in such a small painting. The detailing on the faces was incredible. This piece roughly about 12"x16".


I had a copy of this painting in my room growing up. I'm not sure now where the print is, but seeing this in person in the museum was a dream come true! I've always loved this piece. Notice the girl on the piano and her annoyed stance and reaction.

This was absolutely one of my favorite pieces in the show! The colors danced on the canvas with almost the same vivacity the dancers themselves had. Degas' use of brushstrokes and changes in texture and pattern from the figures to the background imitates the idea of the dancers fluidly moving through the landscape. It's hard to know what is real and what is imagined in this scene with its ethereal quality. In this painting and another similar one in the exhibition, the idea is posed that perhaps the figure is one dancer shown moving about in many poses in practice and adjusting her hair and her dress as she readies for the performance. Does it change the way you look at the painting if it's multiple figures or the same girl?

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