Edgar Degas : FIGURES IN MOTION- A collection of 74 bronze sculptures

Self portrait - Edgar Degas

Last day to see this exhibition in MGM.


Aesthetic, utterly captivating and vivid movements captured in sculptures
Famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, many of Edgar Degas’ sculptures depict urban modern life.  During his lifetime, only one sculpture, the Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer, (made of clay and wax) was shown to the public. After the negative critical reactions, Degas decided not to show his sculptures in public, and for the rest of his life, they remained wrapped in mystery.
This is an Edgar Degas we had not known, and for the first time our public has the chance to see his 74 posthumous bronze sculptures in a special exhibition in MGM Art Space in Macau.  The exhibition Figures in Motion brings us to Degas' inner and mysterious world, wandering behind the curtains or on stage at the Opera House in Paris, walking along horse races or peeking into boudoirs, these precious moments that he captured are with us forever.
Now you have the opportunity to unveil these aesthetic secrets at the first ever Degas’ sculptures exhibition - Edgar Degas : Figures in Motion held by Le French May in Macau. The exhibition is presenting seventy-four of Degas’ sculptures cast in bronze, which were originally made from wax, clay and plaster.  After the artist’s death, Albert Bartholomé cast them in metal to display the most important sculptural heritage of the creator. 
“Figures in Motion” is featuring the importance of the movement and human figure, indicating how they are always the central objects of Degas’ art.  Fascinated by the effect of indoor lighting and human figures, he always tried to capture extraordinary postures from unique angles under light and shade.  This posthumous bronze statue collection has been exhibited at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg for a posthumous bronze exhibition linked with an international colloquium "Posthumous Bronze in Law and Art History".
Edgar Degas' biography : 
Born in Paris in 1834, Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings.  At young age, he already took painting seriously.  But, with his father’s expectation of him going to law school, he duly enrolled in the course without paying much effort on the studies.
In 1855, Degas met his mentor Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres who advised by him to "draw lines."  That year, Degas was admitted by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he was taught by Louis Lamothe and followed the style of Ingres.  Later he travelled to Italy, drawing and painting copies of various Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian.  With his effort, Degas achieved the techniques of high, academic, and classical art.
The artist was thinking to be a history painter at the beginning.  But at his early 30s, he was intrigued by modern life subjects.  He later became a classical painter of modern life by bringing the traditional methods and techniques of a history painter into his new are of interest.
He has been regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, but he did not agree and prefer to be named as a realist.  Indeed, different from the Impressionists who always took countryside, rural scenery and natural daylight into their art pieces, he was captured by the effect of indoor lighting.  He was a superb draftsman, his talents and skills can be seen in his renditions of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes, over half of his works focusing on the subject of dance.
Human figures are always the central object of Degas' art.  The female bodies in movement he depicted show his keen observation, interest and intensity.  He is renowned for his art creation of dancers; the ultimate expression in his ballet dancers earned him the recognition.  A frequent visitor to the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, he was enthralled and fascinated by the dancers.  Not only sketching dancers on stage during performances, he also spent time backstage, endlessly drawing dancers in both moments of privacy and  exercise: dressing and undressing, putting on stockings, adjusting the shoulder strap of a corsage, fastening their  tights, examining the soles of their feet, posing, bowing, lifting legs, raising arms, rehearsing or relaxing.
Prior to his interest in dancers, as early as in 1860s, he made his first studies of horses while visiting his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy.  He also made painstaking observation into his modeling of horses.  He visited the racetrack at Longchamp many times, took photos and carefully studied them, especially the studies of horses in motion made in the 1870s and 1880s by the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge whose new invention Degas mentioned in one of his numerous notebooks. Muybridge studied animal and human locomotion, experimented with motion-sequence still photography and eventually developed a machine “zoopraxiscope” which used multiple cameras with fast lens shutters to project a sequence of images.
In the exhibition, two of the horse sculptures displayed with all four feet off the ground, are a prelude to his floating dancers.  Later when he became more interested and proficient in dancing figures, he made it like as if the dancers are floating off their base.  Dancers as an art subject in fact presented Degas with more possibilities of relationships between the sculpted figure, the base and space. But Degas’ proficiency as a sculptor of human figures and the fluidity shown by his dancers hovering off the ground owe much to his earlier fascination with horses.
Understanding his background and interest, we can see that his sculptures, similar to his photography, were also an attempt to better understand movement, featuring how light and shade play and move on the human body.  While it is known that he was working in pastel as late as the end of 1907, and continued making sculpture as late as 1910, he apparently ceased working in 1912 when he had to move from his long time residency.
His sculptures stay away from the 19th Century mainstream French sculpture and he did not like to create public attention for his works.  He was more like “hiding them” from the public, and the only one exception he exhibited during his lifetime was The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer.  Though the art piece has little to do with Impressionism, it was shown in the 6th Impressionist exhibition held in Paris in 1881.
Made in wax, the little dancer is wearing a real bodice, stockings, shoes, tulle skirt, and horsehair wig with a satin ribbon, amazing the artists of that time with the use of materials, but more important is about the realism, judged by some others as brutish by some.  The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer was only seen again publicly a few decades later in April 1920.
The rest of his sculptures remained a private medium, and somehow “a secret”.  Similar to his sketches or drawings, Degas limited his creation to a small range of subjects, focusing on the areas fascinated him.  The human figures repeat the creation concepts, similarly displaying subtle variations in composition or in the dynamics of movement or of muscular tensions within the body.  Besides the dancers from the opera, the artist took women in various stages of washing and drying themselves illustrating female nudity in an unidealized fashion.

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