Monday, August 28, 2017

FOUR YOUNG DANCERS by Edgar Degas

Young Dancer by Edgar Degas, Art Institute of Chicago
On a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, I met, once again, the famous sculpture of a young dancer by Edgar Degas. It was like meeting an old friend. In each case, her tutu was a different color, but the figure, paused in thought, was the same.
Little Dancer Age Fourteen, Musee D'Orsay
My first encounter with her was in Paris at the Musee D'Orsay in 1998.
Little Dancer, Norton Simon Museum
I then met her again a few years later in Pasadena, California, at the Norton Simon Museum.
Original Wax Sculpture of the Little Dancer, National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
And then, on a trip to Washington, D.C., three years ago, I saw her again. My previous views–in Paris, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and in another exhibit at the National Gallery–were all casts made after his death.  This time I saw Degas’ original wax sculpture of the Little Dancer from which the casts were made, so for the first time I could see how the surface was modeled.  The figure is made of wax over a metal armature to which the artist added wood, rope, and even old paintbrushes in the arms.  Then a wig of human hair was added as well as a cotton-and-silk tutu, a cotton faille bodice, and linen slippers. Her turned out toes, erect posture and raised chin seem to convey an inner determination.The wax model of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was on view from October 5, 2014 to January 11, 2015.
For a fascinating history of the various versions of the young dancer sculpture, click HERE.

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