National Gallery of Victoria’s Winter Masterpieces exhibition for 2016 is an unprecedented retrospective exhibition of the artist Edgar Degas. Degas: A New Vision is the biggest collection of Degas’ works ever to be staged in Australia, including works that have never been seen before in this country.
The exhibition is curated by Henri Loyrette, the former Director of the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay and pre-eminent Degas expert, and it features works collated from over 40 cities and more than 65 collections.
Degas is most famous for his paintings of ballerinas but in this exhibition you’ll be introduced to more than 200 of his paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, pastels and photographs. The works are presented in pastel-coloured rooms and grouped thematically.
If you spend even a minute at each piece you’ll be there for 3+ hours!So here are my highlights:
The exquisite ballet dancer scenes, especially the side by side versions of the rehearsal…
…The famous sculpture of the 14 year old ballet dancer, with her haughty pose…
- The Bellelli family, an icy portrait of marital discord;
…The Pedicure, which uses a technique the Degas invented whereby you apply oil paints thinned with turpentine to give a muted, matte finish….
…the amazingly vibrant pair of rearing horses. This is my personal favourite, I’m amazed by the delicacy, balance and motion exuding from these sculptures.
In the last room you’ll see a new acquisition for NGV, a Degas bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer inspecting her shoe. If you look carefully you’ll even be able to spot his fingerprints as the original sculpture were made from wax then cast in bronze later (many after his death).
Most of the works are not monumental in size and thus deserve detailed attention and stillness. As such, I highly recommend that you try to time your visits for non-peak times (eg weekdays) to enhance your experience and so you can really appreciate Degas’ technical, conceptual and expressive skill.
Degas: A New Vision is an amazing and thoughtful display of one of the world’s most famous artists. The exhibition accompanied by an extensive program of events, including Friday Nights where you can enjoy after-hours access to the exhibition, performances from local and international acts, short talks, food and bars, and live jazz every week. I’m returning again soon and hiring the audio-guide for a more in-depth experience.