MILAN – Most of Degas’s works can be attributed to the great Impressionist movement, born in France in the 1860s in reaction to the academic painting of the time. The artists who were part of it such as Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, tired of being regularly rejected at the Official Exhibition, had gathered in an anonymous company to show their art to the public. Generally the main features of Impressionist art are the new use of light and outdoor subjects. The Impressionists succeeded in revolutionizing painting, realizing that the human eye does not receive a detailed image from reality, but a set of colors which the mind then reworks into distinct forms. Dancers with snappy muscles, singers on stage, running horses… the French painter Edgar Degas tells us about modern life in 19th century Paris. A life made up of racetracks, café-concerts, music and ballets at the Opera. He does it in a new way and with experimental techniques and often uses procedures borrowed from photography.PHOTOGRAPHIC FRAMES – Among the technological innovations of the nineteenth century, photography is the one that most deeply influences painting and in particular Degas’ art. For the artist, this technique is a useful means of studying movement, such as drawing. Degas wants to instantly fix the expression of the motion of bodies. To do this he tackles many issues. He makes portraits, some historical compositions, but above all he tries his hand at subjects inspired by contemporary life: from the world of theater to racecourses. Over time his repertoire is enriched with themes taken from everyday life: ironers and women intent on the toilet. His figures, so natural in their gestures and attitudes, never seem to be posing. DANCERS, WHAT A PASSION– Born in Paris in 1834, after a trip to Italy and America in New Orleans, Degas definitively returned to his city where he joined the group of Impressionist painters. Since 1860 he has frequented the Paris Opera, and spends a lot of time in the foyer (ie the place where the public gathers in the intervals) and above all behind the scenes, where he discovers a world of new subjects. One of his earliest paintings on the subject of ballerinas is Dance Lesson (1863), which shows a class of aspiring dancers around the teacher. In the painting, the Etoile (the ‘star’), i.e. the prima ballerina, the figure is caught, as in an instant photo, in the position of the arabesque (‘arabesque’), i.e. balanced on one leg while the other is lift back, with raised arms and wavy tutu veils. DEGAS AND THE HORSES– During a stay outside Paris, Degas discovers the fascination of horses and racecourses. It is from these observations that he draws, when he performs his first representations of galloping horses, such as Alle corse: Partiti !. In 1862 he met Manet and became his friend. Manet introduces him to his young friends, the future Impressionist painters. And Degas takes Manet to horse racing, a typical expression of the rich bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century: it is no coincidence that Degas and Manet, both belonging to high society, were the first artists to deal with horse racing.

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