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Degas: A New Vision - Exhibition Review


Written by Zoe Cartledge – PR, Communications & Copywriting Coordinator at Blick Creative

The National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Melbourne Winter Masterpieces' are a cultural highlight for many gallery-goers.

This year’s exhibition, Degas: A New Vision allows the viewer to get up close and personal with prolific French painter, Edgar Degas’ famous ballet girls, horses and bathing women. Many associate Degas with the French Impressionists, as some of his paintings show traces of the style through his loose brushwork and the way he created a general ‘romance’ about his subject. Funnily enough, Degas never associated himself with the Impressionists and was once quoted saying to Claude Monet - the champion of French Impressionism - “Your paintings are blurry and they give me a headache.”

The collection on display at the NGV offers a different perspective on Degas’ work, with ample amounts of sketches and colour trials scattered throughout so the viewer can understand how the final piece came together, clearly aimed at those that love obsessing over details and all of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ action. In some cases, I thought this was unnecessary and took up valuable viewing space to appreciate the final artwork. I also found the exhibition layout slightly confusing, as the story seemed to jump in between different years and style periods.

Out of all of the displays throughout the exhibition, Degas’ photography interested me the most. The photographs reminded me of a previous exhibition I’d seen on Eugene Atget, a French ‘street-style’ photographer that focused on all of Paris’ street style action in the 19th Century. Degas’ photography offered a unique glimpse into his personal life, which led me to question how he would have managed to continue creating art as his eyesight became very poorly in his later years. I thought the photography section offered greater context into Degas’ life and ideas behind his paintings instead of the sketches that were scattered throughout the displays.

I understand what the NGV was trying to convey through this exhibition, an intimate look into the life and times of Edgar Degas and the opportunity to get inside the artist’s mind, but I thought the overall ‘romance’ of his work was slightly lost. To me, art is like the theatre, I don’t want to see the curtain being pulled and the backdrop being installed, I’m there to see the proper show.

Degas: A New Vision is on display at the NGV until September 18.



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