Degas. The old man mad about art

DirectorMischa Scorer
One line synopsisThe life and work of French painter, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), one of the founders of Impressionism.

Richard Kendall posing nude model in copy of a Degas painting (in a reconstruction of his studio) for students to copy. Howard Hodgkin, Kendall, and Paula Rego discussing a Degas self-portrait. Model of Degas’s studio. Kendall leafing through a book of Degas’s paintings, shows a reproduction of the painting of the Nude Woman Standing, Drying Herself (1851-1852) (being posed above) which he says was a discovery for him. Views of Montmartre, photograph of Degas. Kendall in Paris. Photographs of Montmartre in the later 19th century. The Place Pigalle. The Moulin Rouge and Place Pigalle today. Sketches of naked women by Degas.Kendall looking at pictures by Degas, not the usual Impressionist outdoor scenes, but L’Absinthe / In a Café (1876) sketches of jockeys, ballet dancers. Portrait of Pagans with Degas’s Father (c.1869). Four Self-Portraits at different ages. Kendall looking at book on Ingres; paintings by him. Ingres’s view was that line and form was much more important than colour. Another self-portrait (etching) by Degas who was much influenced by Ingres to "draw lines". Students at work on their drawings. Life drawings by Degas. Students working. Line in art represented organisation; colour stood for more sensuous aspects. Detail from Self Portrait with Evariste de Valernes (1816-96) (1865). The Millinery Shop (c.1884) with colour employed much more boldly. Another painting with Degas’s words over explaining how he recalled different colours. Photograph of elderly Degas. Before the Start at the Horse Race (1885-1892), illustrating Degas’s desire to represent immediacy. Dancers at Rehearsal (1875-1877). Kendall in front of Dancers (c.1891) which is a totally different style – much less detail, the paint applied with fingers, with the colour assuming great importance. The Renaissance: Artemis and Actæon (1559) by Titian. Degas’s style changes under the influence of Titian, becoming freer with stronger colours. Various images of dancers including The Blue Dancers. Photograph of older Degas with two friends. Commentary talks about his rather right-wing views. Kendall on the myth of Degas as a hermit. He believes this reputation was deliberately created to protect his art and keep people away. Photographs of Degas in playful mood. Plan of his trip to Burgundy in 1890, to make some landscapes. Photographs of him in a pony trap. Views of the landscape. A landscape monotype; Kendall copying the technique, painting direct onto a copper plate, covering the image with damp paper, passing the two through a press, adding pastel colour to the resulting print. Degas image – another landscape, seen in close-up to show the technique; another. VO from Howard Hodgkin. Hodgkin talking about Degas caring about the nature of art, rather than about nature. Photograph of elderly Degas. Hodgkin refers to Hokusai’s self-definition as "the old man mad about drawing" and suggests Degas could be known as "the old man mad about art".

Photograph of the Tabarin dancehall, Montmartre, opposite which Degas took a studio in 1890, and where he worked most for the rest of his life. Kendall tours a reconstruction of the attic studio, curtained to provide subdued light. Details of some of the pastel works made in the studio. Drawers of pastels. This technique allowed Degas to produce line and colour at the same time. Pastels of a group of Russian dancers, described by Degas himself as "an orgy of colour". Kendall with dancing costumes. Degas’s technique described: starting with charcoal study, traced and retraced to make different versions, add colour. Photographs taken in his studio used in a similar way to manufacture a picture. Later work where the dancers appear older and tired, as he was becoming himself. Photograph of elderly Degas. Photographs taken or arranged by Degas (Kendall looking at album), with friend Paul Albert Bartolomé, with a little girl, with Louise Halévy, with his maid Zoé Closier.The studio and Degas’s wax statuettes. Kendall posing a model to imitate the pose of a wax statuette for the students to draw. A number of statuettes in a similar pose. Studio, photograph of Degas. Some of Degas’s nudes, all from the pastel period. Studio with students nude sketches on easels, and some of the artefacts from the paintings. More views of women washing. Roger Law, Caricaturist, thinks that, in these nudes, Degas has detached himself from "the male gaze", several more pastel nudes. Law is most interested in the use of colour and the composition. Ghislaine Howard, Artist, wonders how the poses could be achieved; they seem to be trying to capture "a fleeting moment". She sees the images as non-voyeuristic, allowing women to behave naturally. Paula Rego thinks the pastels make the women seem like animals (in an "honourable" way), with a great deal of energy, and suggests that Degas sometimes "wanted to be a feminine animal". Pastels and charcoal sketches.

Kendall believes Degas looked on reproducing the human body in a new and different way as a challenge. He combined ideas from the past with a radical new use of colour and line. His paintings reduce the images to blocks of shape and colour. Various paintings of women including La Coiffure (1896) (bought by Matisse) and Nude Woman Standing, Drying Herself. Hodgkin talking about how figurative art is often approached, as reality. Says this painting is not reality but "a moment". He and Kendall discuss the painting. Photographs of elderly Degas: in the street, with small child, in garden. Degas’s words read over. The reconstructed studio. Credits.

Production companyScorer Associates
Running time50 minutes
Full credits

Presented by Richard Kendall;
Voice of Degas, John Purdie;
With special thanks to The National Gallery, London,
Musée d’Orsay,
The Art Institute of Chicago,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Department of Fine Art.
Additional picture sources: Philadelphia Museum of Art,
Rau Foundation,
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.,
Cincinnati Art Museum,
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva,
Nasjongalleriet, Oslo,
Fujikawa Galleries Inc.,
Graphische Sammlung, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Glasgow Museums: The Burrell Collection,
Tate Gallery, London
Santa Barbara Museum of Art,
The Art Museum, Princeton University,
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, CA,
The Readers Digest Association, Inc.,
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London,
Bibliothèque Nationale de France,
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA,
Agence Photographique de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux,
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
Galerie Beyeler,
Galerie Nathan,
Sara Lee Corporation,
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto,
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut, USA,
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Robert Lee Blaffer Memorial Collection, gift of Sarah Campbell Blaffer.
Studio copies of paintings and sculptures by Ghislaine Howard,
Michael Howard,
Stewart Gartside,
Kate Patterson,
Pat Irwin,
Simon Atkinson,
Rory Gurrin,
Richard Henderson,
Justine A Thorley,
Paule Van Wijngaarden,
Jane Thorpe,
Kay Chaloner.
Lighting Cameramen Ernest Vincze BSC,
Colin Clarke;
Sound Recordists Simon Clarke,
David Keene;
Designer Katy McPhee;
Dubbing Mixer Andrew Wilson;
Rostrum Camera David Blackman;
On Line Editor Tim Bolt;
Production Team Rachel Lucas,
Jeanne Clenet;
Production Assistant Emma Parker;
Production Manager Christine Owen;
Original Music David Poore;
Editor Andrew Findlay;
Executive Producer for the Arts Council Rodney Wilson;
Series Editor Nigel Williams;
Produced by Mischa Scorer,
Robert McNab;
Directed by Mischa Scorer.
Scorer Associates.
A production for BBC and the Arts Council of England.
© BBC and the Arts Council of England MCMXCVI.

Film segmentDegas. The old man mad about art - ACE333.2
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