The Impressionists wanted to create a scene that felt as though one were looking at a single moment or a quick glimpse into the past. They achieved this with quick brush strokes and an intense study of color. Many took to plein air, but some, especially Edgar Degas, wanted to capture the modern life of Paris. This is seen in his infamous depictions of the young ballerinas working at the Paris Opera, among many other works.
Two main influences shaped his work. Despite being apart in geography, the Japanese method of art made its way to France and into the hands of Degas. In 1853, their ports were reopened to the West. With this came an influx of new art. The modern Parisians collected these works and hung them in their homes. Artists looked at them and found inspiration. One can clearly see the influence of Japonisme in many of Degas’s pieces. He uses candid scenes, a limited number of light or muted colors, intimate moments, and asymmetrical compositions. In the 1830’s, the camera was introduced. It brought a new way of looking at the world. Degas applauded the ability to capture a moment as honestly as possible and attempted to emulate it with his art. This, combined with his admiration of Eastern art, introduced a very cutting-edge style. The purpose of this curation is to pair pieces with similar features and point out the influence of Japonisme on Degas’s art.
Edgar Degas, Dancers Practicing at the Barre, 1877, mixed media on canvas, 29.100.34
|Unknown, Willows and Bridge, early 17th century, pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper, 2015.300.105.1,.2|