Paris is the “Flower Capital” of the world, attracting people from all over the world to visit. But Paris is not always so beautiful. After the failure of the “Franco-Prussian War” from July 19, 1870 to May 10, 1871, France not only lost land and paid compensation, but even on the eve of the end of the war, thousands of compatriots died meaninglessly . Due to the poverty caused by the siege, as well as the civil unrest and anarchy in the streets, even this “Bloody Week” (Bloody Week) starting in May, the number of deaths is said to be higher than that of the “Reign of Terror” during the Revolution of 1790. 20,000 to 30,000 people died.
During this period, all industries were depressed, food was scarce, and Paris was dead. The activities of artists were also interrupted: the famous artists Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro fled to England, Jean-Frédéric Bazille joined the army in August 1870, He died in battle three months later on November 28, 1870. However, although Edgar Degas (1834-1917) also joined the National Guard defending Paris, he was demobilized early because he found visual defects during training. Then he devoted himself to creation during this period of confusion and embarrassment, and painted the oil painting “The Dance Class” (The Dance Class) also called Le Foyer (“Casino”) in 1870 or 1871, and painted it again in 1874. An oil painting also called The Dance Class or The Ballet Class.
Degas is the most talented, complex and influential painter among the Impressionists. He was born in Paris into an aristocratic family with links to Italy and America. Because he likes painting, he started to learn painting very early. He later worked as a scribe at the Louvre Museum. According to his father’s wishes, he entered the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853. But because he only wanted to become a painter in the future, he resolutely gave up the opportunity to be a lawyer in the future.
The Dance Lesson 1870 or 1871
In 1855, Degas met the famous neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1780-1867). He respected Ingres very much, and Ingres’s suggestion made him unforgettable: “Draw lines, young man, still draw more lines from life and memory, you will become an excellent artist.” April of this year , he was admitted by the Academy of Fine Arts (cole des Beaux-Arts), and studied painting under the guidance of Ingres’s student, French academician Louis Lamothe (Louis Lamothe, 1822-1869), following Ingres’s artistic direction The style grew and developed, becoming a classicist and, after a short time concentrating on landscapes and portraits, quickly moving into a realist style.
In fact, Degas’s interest in “casinos” did not start in the 1870s. He began painting musicians and stage life almost ten years ago and became fascinated by the subject matter. After his demobilization, Degas continued to create images of groups of stage actors and musicians, especially ballerinas.
Unlike Impressionist friends such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, whose canvases often unfolded in bright sunlight on rural landscapes, Degas was different. From the early 1870s, Degas became increasingly obsessed with night scenes under the lights in the halls of theaters and opera houses. He often watched the dancers from behind the scenes rather than sitting in a box. He carefully observed their hard work, observed their sometimes depressed and sometimes joyful emotions, and then used his paintbrush to express the beauty of these dancers. He has been so focused and persistent on this theme for more than 50 years. Statistics show that more than half of Degas’s works are of this theme. Degas biographer Susan Goldman Rubin is said to have mentioned in Degas and the Dance: The Painter and the Petits Rats (2002) It is known that Degas has created more than 1,000 paintings depicting ballet themes. Most of the dancers in the paintings are poor working-class girls, so they have the nickname of Petits Rats (little mice). In order to paint these paintings, Degas will spend hours observing behind the scenes of the “Paris Opera House”, and will also spend hours asking them to come to his studio to pose, study and describe their rehearsals, warm-ups, Stretching and even waiting before going on court. They practiced the same pose over and over, and Degas drew it over and over again. In order to create these paintings, Degas paid a lot of hard work. “Dancing Lesson” are two of the brightest paintings of this type. The former is now in the “Muse d’Orsay” in Paris, and the latter is in the “Metropolitan Museum of Art” in New York, USA.
Art historian Teresa Southgate has this to say about Degas’ “Dance Lesson,” painted between 1870 and 1871 at the Musée d’Orsay:
When looking at the painting at first glance, one’s first impression is the large blank space on the right, plus the figures or furniture on the left or something that balances these cluttered figures and the huge piano. But it is almost immediately recognized that it is en equilibre (balance on one foot), the attitude a terre (pause) of the skilled dancer in the center of the picture, just settled from a gallop, a kind of Common ready pose. Degas leaves wide open spaces for the dancer to walk around, and the viewer can imagine her fluid and graceful movements as she traverses the ground. … Degas deftly captures the moment that precedes the moment to come.
”Dance Lesson” lived up to the turmoil in Paris at the time. In fact, there is no indication that Degas was in Paris when he painted The Dance Lesson. Usually he paints from memory, at most using sketches that he may have made on the spot. Everyone knows that during the siege of Paris, Degas was able to leave Paris and stay with his friends in the country. Today, the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath is seldom remembered except in textbooks. Degas’ dancers, on the other hand, survive as they first captivated the painter’s eye.
Regarding the 1874 painting “Dance Lesson”, the collector Metropolitan Museum of Art stated:
Edgar Degas’s art has always been with ballet, the subject that has fascinated him for 50 years and inspired more than half of his works Inextricably linked. Dancing Lesson, painted in 1874, shows his preference for rehearsals and backstage scenes over performances. He sees dance as a way of working for him, which needs to be done over and over again, not like a painter’s work. Drawing such subjects from modern life was an intriguing entrepreneurial endeavor for the Impressionists. The painting shows a dance exam presided over by the famous ballet master Jules Perrot (1810-1892). The background is the rehearsal room of the original Paris Opera House that was burned in the fire in 1873. Degas drew this imaginary scene from memory and sketches he made in his studio.
In this painting, Degas eschews conventional compositional modes in favor of more extreme imagery, such as this one in which dancers dramatically form a diagonal line across an empty, expansive floor space. The asymmetry of the composition shows a strong influence from Japanese ukiyo-e, or polychrome woodblock prints. Degas’s friend, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), an American female painter in Paris, said, “This is more beautiful than any painting of (Dutch painter) Vermeer I have ever seen.”
The Dance Lesson, 1874
It was commissioned by Degas in 1873 by the collector Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914) as a companion piece to a painting of the same name from 1870-1871. Another identity of Four is a famous French baritone singer, who has appeared in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, Meyerbel’s “Northern Star”, “Huguenots” and Donizetti’s “Beloved”. Ji” and many other operas, and he has also composed several classical songs. After the work was completed for the first time, Degas decided to repaint it because he was not satisfied with the work, although Faure came to ask for it twice. It was finally completed in 1874 and handed over to the client a year later. In the upper right corner of the painting, there is a poster depicting Four performing Rossini’s “William Tell”, which already shows that the painter pays tribute to Faure. This painting was transferred to the United States in 1898 and was collected by a certain family before it was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1986.
True, neither of these “Dance Lessons” is Degas’s most famous work. But they all express the beauty of these “little mice” in the dance with bright colors and vivid images, leaving a deep impression on people, and have always been loved by the broad audience who visit the museum.