26 October 2019

Degas, a grand draughtsman, et pourtant...

Here is a lovely example of Degas at his most sensual. A drypoint, or etching more likely, it is certainly an early self-portrait. It possesses everything one can love in a portrait; a unity of expression, graphic expression and a kind of piety found in so many Rembrandts of a similar genre.

But, saying all this does not mean that I am a great lover of Degas by any means. In fact, he is an artist whom I respect completely but whose work I mostly find devoid of much humanity (empathy). There are lots of exceptions, of course, but on the whole I cannot warm to him. 'L'Absinthe' is a great portrait of a drinker, but there is still a dispassionate distance which keeps me away. There are a million people who would disagree with me, of course.

Then, there are so many pastels of dancers which never come close to moving me despite their almost perfect clarity of conception.

I just cannot move beyond their technical virtuosity, so apparent, into something which  is personal.

And the nudes are rendered with exquisite taste, yet they still do nothing for me as good as they are.

There are exceptions; as when he made mono-prints of landscapes which I have always loved. 

Then, too, are so many simple, poetic drawings seemingly made from so little. Herein, lies his greatness for me. There are only a small handful of artists whom I consider truly great, but for whom I have little or no affinity of feeling. Degas is a curious example of one. And I admit freely to my quixotic taste.