found Marie’s story the best part of the book’s historic recreation. We experience the obstacle course laid out before these aspiring dancing girls. The unflinching standards of performance, dress, and decorum that serve as a sieve, filtering out all but the most ruthlessly determined and privileged.
Marie is only able to advance by selfish dedication to art, and the opportunity to earn a small wage modelling nude for the 50 year old Degas.
The girl’s never very deep innocence is peeled off bit by bit as Degas’ drawings of her developing body become sought after by ardent collectors.
Meanwhile her success as a dancer becomes a two-edged sword. Elevation inside the opera putting greater and greater demand on her to pay for tutors, purchase silk slippers and tarlatan skirts
This wax model over an armature of wire, leather and old paint brushes, dressed in actual clothing and with a wig of real hair, becomes the ultimate expression of Degas’ obsession with drawing Marie.
However, public reception to the sculpture was mixed.
The 3/4 life size figure is lauded as the first truly modern sculpture. A triumph of realism in art. Degas turning his back on the pearly-white floating nymphs found cluttering every over-stuffed parlor and gilded brothel in Paris.
Yet, The Little Dancer was simultaneously rejected as simply too ugly. A female ape, a barbarian Aztec, a sinewy-muscled circus acrobat.
Given the frank realism of the work, reaction to the sculpture is also the hone
I’m not going to make any rash decisions – like swearing off tinting drawings.
Well maybe I will for a while.
Everything goes in phases. But I still need to keep it in reserve for challenging situations.
Draw now / paint later is still the best way to get results when you’re pressed for time and the final presentation matters.
I suppose my main take away is that there’s still a long ways to go towards the mastery of ink – towards even greater range of expression – more interesting marks.
Even as my painting evolves in parallel.
Right now we are packing our bags for a month long painting trip. I hope to have more definitive things to say on this topic when I get back. So stay tuned, and I’ll be haunting your comments from our hotel wifi.