Thursday, July 11, 2019

Degas, Painter of Ballerinas

Degas, Painter of Ballerinas. Susan Goldman Rubin. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: As the young girls adjusted their toe shoes and warmed up for class, Edgar Degas studied them.

Premise/plot: This is a nonfiction picture book for older readers and/or art lovers of all ages. This one focuses both on the ART of Edgar Degas (and the subject of his art: dancers) and the LIFE of Edgar Degas. (Roughly eight pages is devoted to his life--the rest is focused on his art.)

Each spread highlights a piece of art. (Sometimes a spread highlights two pieces of artwork.) There is an overall narrative to the text. But each piece of art also has accompanying sidebar packed with details.

I thought the narrative was lovely! It even included a few quotes.
During his long career from 1852 to 1912, Degas created more than a thousand dance pictures. He learned that ballet training was very much like studying art. It took hard work and hours and hours of practice. Degas drew the same poses again and again, just as the dancers repeated their positions at the barre again and again. "One must repeat the same subject ten times, a hundred times," said Degas. "Nothing in art, not even movement, must seem an accident." (2)
Sometimes Degas invented his own costumes for his paintings. In the classroom, the dancers really wore plain white skirts and tops, but he added blue and pink sashes and black throat ribbons. He needed the accents of color. Once when Degas was giving art lessons to a friend's son, he told the young student to paint the whole canvas in tones of a single color, perhaps gray or brown. "You put a little color on it, a touch here, a touch there," said Degas, "and you will see how little it takes to make it come to life." (14)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It isn't a book to be rushed through and read cover to cover. Though if one wanted to get the big could certainly do that first. But it is best to be enjoyed a little here and there. The art deserved to be appreciated, which takes time and effort. I loved learning about each piece.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Mae Travels 6:09 PM  

The Impressionists are all so wonderful in the way they use color and light! That's an interesting story about how he would highlight the costumes of his subjects. I just posted some Degas paintings this week.

best.... mae at

Tamara 8:17 PM  

Degas is one fascinating painter and very much loved in my house. I'm not sure why, but my husband has been a lover of Degas since our first visit to Paris and has a small collection of post cards on the fridge to enjoy everyday.

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