Edgar Degas: Of Dandies, Ballerinas and Women Ironing DVD

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Part of the DVD Series: Gallery of the Masters

At the age of 36 his sight began to fail. Degas could no longer stand bright daylight. In only a few years he would go blind, this he knew.

Edgar Degas, the son of an Italian banker, had stopped studying law to become a painter. He was a brilliant portraitist, but even more than this he loved to paint the dynamics of movement in horse races, to sketch the milliners on the boulevards, to depict with his paintbrush or pastel crayons the young women who worked as laundresses and water-carriers.

Like no other artist, he captured the fleeting moment of movement. Due to his failing eyesight, he retreated increasingly into the world of artificial light, painting the female singers in the concert cafes on the Champs-Elysees, the ballerinas in the Paris Opera, the cocottes in the brothels, intimate scenes in the boudoir.

He became a permanent guest in the Opera, studying meticulously the ballerinas in training and at rehearsals, behind the scenes and on stage. Degas recorded every gesture with his paintbrush and pastel crayon as in a photograph: unconventionally composed "snapshots" of painting. His radiantly colourful pastels breathe the air of the stage, testify to the glory and the toil, to the aesthetics and the effort of a dancer's everyday routine. In his lifetime Degas' picture Dancers at the Bar was sold in an auction for the highest price ever reached for a painting by a living artist in France.

The documentary follows the trail of the painter through nocturnal Paris at the turn of the century, in the Paris Opera and the concert cafes.

Runtime: 30 minutes; Color; Not Rated