Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it's charming." Degas

Those words of Degas don't really relate to this post; I just loved that statement.

Isn't it almost as interesting to see what an artist omits as what he/she includes? Came across this Degas, Dancers Practicing at the Bar, (1876-7). Of course your eye goes right to that watering can that mimics the shape of the dancer. Degas later regretted including that can and wanted to paint it out. But, the owner of the work. who was also a friend of Degas, wouldn't let him do it.* (If you're wondering what a watering can's doing in a studio, apparently the can is used to spread dust on the floor for the dancers.)

As a painter you sometimes just can't stop looking at an element you decide is not right. I remember my Otis instructor, Franklyn Liegel, suggesting you block out the element (by putting one hand over one eye) and see if you will miss the element if it's gone. Trying it with this painting, I certainly don't feel I miss that can. What do you think? It must have practically ruined Degas' feeling about that painting, wanting to change it but not being allowed to do it.

*From Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale U. Press, 1993, p.232


  1. I was in fact wondering why there was a watering can. :)

  2. I can see why Degas would have wanted to paint the can out. And yet . . . might it have worked better if it had been turned in the other direction? It certainly would have made the resemblance more obvious to me.