I purchased two copies of this marvellous book in preparation for a visit with friends to the current exhibition, "DEGAS AND THE BALLET: PICTURING MOVEMENT" at the Royal Academy and I must say that we were certainly not disappointed by either!
This really is a lovely book. It is beautifully designed, with a well written and informative text which is lavishly illustrated with reproductions of paintings, sculptures and very early photographs from the Exhibition.
Degas' fascination with the ballet and in particular, with the physicality of the actions performed by the dancers themselves, is here set within the context of his time. Both book and Exhibition provide an overview of the developments taking place within the fledgling art of photography during the same period, postulating that Degas and many of his contemporaries in other branches of the arts had perhaps caught the same mood and were all exploring different aspects of the mysterious physical processes involved in animation. It was the movement itself which was important. As for Degas, he himself said;
"They call me the painter of dancers. They don't understand that, for me, the dancer was a pretext for painting pretty fabrics and rendering movement."
This book will inform and delight you, whether you are a fan of the arts in general, or of Degas in particular. It is a wonderful souvenir of a marvellous Exhibition - and it is £13 cheaper from Amazon than it is at the R.A. Shop! ;)
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Dance as a pretext28 Nov. 2011
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The catalog for the current exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, this book is based on the oft-quoted Degas comment that, for him, the dance was "a pretext for rendering movement". Apart from many large-scale reproductions of paintings and drawings, it is an interesting work in that it studies the relationship between the artist and the nascent art of photography. It is now well -known that Degas was a convert to amateur photography and many examples are reproduced in the book of the photos he took of dancers and women bathing. Also enlightening is the essay that dwells on Degas's interest in Edward Muybridge's photographic studies of movement, which, at the time, were revolutionary.
Now, I would make a slight qualification as to the quality of the reproductions, especially of paintings, which appear dark when compared to the originals.