Happy Birthday Edgar

Last year when I was in Paris, I was lucky enough to be at the Musee d’Orsay  the same time as the most beautiful collection of the work of Degas. Of all the lovely pieces the most memorable was a tiny sketch book of little ink drawings Degas had used when he wanted to catch a quick image of a figure.  It was the most amazing thing, the pages were filled with ink line drawings of  figures in motion.  I have seen many ink drawings in my day but I had never before seen a line drawing that was immediately recognizable. Yet looking at this little book, I would immediately have know the drawings were Degas. The beauty of his form was present in just a single stroke of ink.  Amazing.

This article from the Huffington Post today, (HuffPost Arts and Culture twitter feed)….is in honor of Edgar Degas’ birthday, originally published last year honoring the artist’s life and work.

Today is the birthday of Impressionist extraordinaire Edgar Degas. The dreamy painter who idealized the beauty of ballet would turn 179 if he were magically still alive today.

Degas was born on July 19th, 1834 in Paris, France. His love for painting developed at an early age, and by the age of 18, he had turned his bedroom into a makeshift studio. In 1853, the young artist became a copyist, but in line with his father’s requests, also enrolled in law school. He made little progress in his legal studies, and his admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris solidified his decision to abandon academia for the world of art. He traveled to Italy to marvel at masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, and upon returing to France in the late 1850s, fell headfirst into his new career.

degas1Self-portrait (Degas au porte-fusain), 1855
Degas first exhibited at the Salon in 1865, during the time of his historical paintings and studies of horses. After a short stint in the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War, he ventured to New Orleans, Louisiana, focusing more on works depicting his family members. Back in France in the 1870s, the artist became disillusioned with the inner-workings of the Salon and joined a group of young independent creatives who would later be known as the Impressionists. Although Degas abhorred the label, his association with the group that included Claude Monetand Camille Pissarro led to a betterment of his financial situation, allowing the painter to begin collecting works from the artists he revered.

Degas’ opposition to the plein air studies of the Impressionists set him in a class of his own, despite the persistent inclusion of the artist in the movement by others. Instead of landscapes, he focused more on indoor scenes of Parisian life, such as the inside of dance studios and crowded restaurants. He retained his love of classical techniques, using clouded brushstrokes and exaggerated shadows to create his signature off-center compositions. His color choice ranged from the dark palette of Dutch artists to the vivid choices of contemporary French painters, but his knack for leaving the viewer wanting with his seemingly unfinished creations persisted. Throughout his career, he moved from oil painting to pastel to sculpture to even photography, demonstrating the depth of his true artistic brilliance.

degas10The Dance Class (La Classe de Danse),1873–1876
Degas passed away on September 27th, 1917, at the age of 83. But his legacy lives on through his work, which is repeatedly shown in museums across the world. Images like “Dancers at the Bar” and sculptures like “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” continue to be revered by art lovers regardless of their age, gender, or dance regimen.

So raise your glass to Edgar Degas’ birthday today, and thank the heavenly beings that he didn’t opt for a career in litigation! See a slideshow of his work below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section:

Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Mutt and Me

Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Mutt and Me

It seems today this might just be true.  I have been thinking about writing a little informative blip about Marcel Duchamp. “Why,” everyone I know would ask…”Why, today would you care about Marcel Duchamp?” Well, rather than being accused of completely loosing it, and remembering things from the past that absolutely no one I know cares about, I guess I should explain what prompted this behavior and sudden interest in the Marcel Duchamp of Modern Art History 323.  I ran across this picture of what at first looked like Nude Descending A Staircase No.2 . The painting, you might remember, is from the controversial 1913 Armory Show in New York.  The same Armory Show that had America in a roar over this new artistic style, that flaunted traditional cubism and moved forward to a whole new movement, now termed Modernism.

I thought at first glance it was the very recognizable painting as the movement and composition of the lines and the color is hard to miss. Then, when I came to my senses, I recognized the robot like figure was really not at all the cubistic nude of the Duchamp I was remembering.

I was somewhat relieved by a quick search to find a picture of the original, look at it again after many years of it never even entering my conscious and remember the words of my professor, Olli Peter Valaine as he tried to explain Modernism.  Remembering his words,  I am now again interested, and drawn to the compelling fearlessness of  Duchamp as he presented this entirely new look to cubism. Of course, he was practically kicked out of the French art world for it, and was ridiculed even in the cartoon media of the day when it was first shown at the New York Armory Show in 1913.

The point of this whole story, I guess, is somewhat varied, first I thought the robotic art piece was a bit of a slur on the original and some how almost sacrilegious, but then I remembered it was Marcel Duchamp that practically started this concept, of using famous art and turning it into your own. Talk about sacrilegious…he is the one that drew a mustache and beard on the Mona Lisa and called it “Ready Made” art, named it L. H. O.O. Q. which loosely translated from French slang means “a hot tail.” Marcel Duchamp was the one who signed his name, well sort of… he really signed it Richard Mutt… to a urinal, set it on a pedestal, entered it into an art show and called it “Fountain”  and then defended it with some esoteric thought process of what constitutes art.

So I guess my, “What in the world is that about,”  reaction to the robots, harks back to Duchamp and his art and brings me full circle, as I remember the convoluted sometimes entertaining story of Marcel Duchamp.

The rest of the circle is the Hemingway quote at the beginning. At first I was going to write this serious art history lesson about Marcel Duchamp  and his role in the development of Modernism and the Cubustic movement and the Armory Show of 1913 and the artistic family of Duchamps, and how line development and repetition go hand in hand with art and interior design and on and on…well, that just became too much work and too uninteresting, thus the bleeding that lucky for us all did not happen. Instead, I decided to help you win a trivia contest. Question:

What artist added a mustache and beard to the Mona Lisa and got by with it?


Who signed a urinal and called it art?

Now you have the answer if it ever comes up.

Note: For some reason I can’t capture a picture of the Fountain and post it here, but if you are interested you can google it further.  You will notice it is signed R. Mutt  which was the name Duchamp used to enter it into an art show.  All of that is another story, amusing and interesting, and like all art forms a pathway to the thinking of the artist. There is also an interesting article on Google by Sara Shea, that explains the tongue in cheek attitude of Duchamp.

Nude  Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is part of The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.           Fancy – Bleed.

My World Traveling Friend goes to Marrakesh, Morocco…images, this morning.

My World Traveling Friend goes to Marrakesh, Morocco…images, this morning.

I have a friend traveling in Morocco this week.  I ask him to send me the designs and colors of Marrakesh that were outside of the door where he is staying. These are the pictures he sent this morning.

Since the main religion of Morocco is Islam, which forbids the representation of people and animals in art, Moroccan designs are complex patterns and abstractions. According to Islam beliefs, these patterns create a sense of beauty so that the viewer  can focus on higher truths than humans and animals.  Moroccan pottery varies within the country, however regardless of the area  Moroccan pottery is made with meaningful designs, styles, symbols and colors.

Since Morocco sits in a strategic location at the point of blending cultures on the northwestern point of Africa this geographical location imbues Moroccan interior design   with European, African as well as Persian influences.