Tag Archives: art history

Reflections- Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge 2018.

Welcome Back to Letters to Dead Artists, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge.

For the entire month of April, and a few weeks leading up to the big launch, I have been traveling the world with my ball of red string  and exchanging letters with 26 Dead Artists, bringing together quite a divergent group of artists to forge something new both in terms of art, but also in terms of connecting up my own dots with that very same red string and becoming more connected within myself.

Map Final

26 Artists across the world all joined by a single, red string.

Perhaps, I should’ve thought twice before setting out on an epic adventure, albeit of the literary bent, on April Fool’s Day. Maybe, that’s why I set my sights so high that I was looking somewhere over the mountain and up towards the summit of Everest, when I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and write 26 letters to dead artists in 30 days without much preparation. Indeed, I wasn’t that unlike Bilbo Baggins who just walked out of his home in The Shire and set off without any preparation at all.

Then, like a crazed maniac, I researched, introspected and wrote well after midnight every night, in addition to the realities of being wife, mother, chief cook and taxi driver and managed to put together 55 088 words. I’m immensely proud of myself, and while this achievement goes well and truly beyond the scope of the challenge and readers like yourselves, I’m now well on the way towards a manuscript. That is my true goal, and I also hope that these writings are helping other people who are also stuck between a rock and a hard place. Writing and getting my book published will help raise me up, and I hope reading it will give others encouragement and hope…a reason to persevere.

While this series has the quirky title: Letters to Dead Artists, it could also be called: My journey with 26 Artists and Getting to Know Myself Better, which is nowhere near as catchy.

I am still learning so much about these artists and am yet to read through the series from start to finish. So, it is still too soon for me to really reach any conclusions and my observations would be very incomplete.

However, I have noticed that many of these artists lived with chronic medical conditions and/or disabilities and many of them experienced significant grief. Whether this intense suffering made the artist or not, I’m not sure. As I said, I still have a long way to go.

As for myself, working through this series has uncovered my own stifling perfectionism and an intense desire to avoid making mistakes, which has been paralyzing me on many fronts, and is clearly holding me back. In the past, I’ve always thought a perfectionist was that person who is meticulously precise and always gets it right. However, there’s a flip side to that…the person who desires perfection, yet feels so dreadfully inadequate, that they never get started. Ironically, other people could even perceive this person has great talent and might even have the external accolades to prove it. Yet, the perfectionist themselves can’t see it and is their own harshest critic. Indeed, this intense drive towards perfection can even claim its host. Of course, we’ve all known creatives who’ve seemingly burned up in their own flame.

The need to balance light and dark, relaxation and intensity is another life skill I uncovered during the series. I found that most of the artists I’ve related to in that really intense, soul mate  “Nano Nano” kind of way,  were expressionists and most of them had the intensity of a nuclear bomb, especially Munch’s The Scream. My connection to many of these paintings harks back to my youth. I found revisiting them now, especially all at once, too much and I found myself needing to detour to Monet’s Garden. All that angsty steam had to escape. It couldn’t keep building up and building up without an outlet. I also had a day off where I had lunch in the city with my mother and daughter at a swanky Japanese restaurant on Sydney Harbour and finished up at the Art Gallery of NSW approaching art in a much more relaxing way. Enjoying the colours, and catching up with “old friends” I hadn’t seen for awhile, which is also something I need to do in the real world. Work towards a better balance between the solitary writer’s life which is enhanced by my health and disability issues, and my extroverted, socially-driven self. These two seeming opposites need to be managed better to reach more of balance, happiness and all-round sense of well being. While “I write, therefore I am” might be a catchy motto, writers still need to look after our spiritual, physical, social, what ever other selves might be hidden under the hood. That’s where as much as I detest time management and putting limits on my writing time, it has its place…especially for an obsessive like me.

Are you like that? Could you write underwater?

Envelope to Georgia O'Keeffe

It’s a massive undertaking to read all of these letters, but perhaps you can pick and choose. That said, I encourage you to read some of the letters to artists you may not know, so you can also expand your horizons.

Since the challenge ended, I’ve also added a piece of music to each artist/painting to give the series that added boost. It is a truly sensory experience. These are all listed below.

It the list below, you’ll find the name of the artist and if you click on that, it will take you through to the full post. Next to that, you’ll find a link through to the music which I’ve linked up to each artist and then there’a photo of one work per artist. So, if you’re in the mood to spread your wings, I encourage you to take up. I have learned so much through writing this series and who knows when you might need to know some of this seeming trivia.

 

I hope you enjoy the series…

A –Z Letters to Dead Artists

Introduction

A- Alexandros of Antioch – Elvis Costello performing: “She”.

Venus de Milo


Alexandros of Antioch Venus de Milo, The Louvre

B- Sandro BotticelliO Fortuna – Carmina Burana

400px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery.

C- Grace Cossington Smith – Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree

 

The-Bridge-In-Curve-quot--Grace-Cossington-Smith

Grace Cossington Smith, Bridge in Curve, Art Gallery of NSW

D Edgar Degas – Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Little Swans.

edgar-degas-Little-dancer

Edgar Degas, The Little Dancer, Musee d’Orsay

 E- Eileen Agar– Sia’s Chandelier

 

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

F- Frederick McCubbin – Slim Dusty singing Waltzing Matilda

 

Fred-McCubbin-On-The-Wallaby-Track Stamp

G- Vincent Van Gogh – Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night

 

Starry Night MOMA

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

H- Hans Heysen – Dame Nellie Melba singing Voi che sapete (1910)

Heysen 1912

Hans Heysen, “The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Hahndorf.” (1912)

 I- Isabel BishopDolly Parton’s 9 to 5

 

220px-Young_Woman_by_Isabel_Bishop

Isabel Bishop, “Young Woman”, 1937. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

J           Jackson Pollock– Elvis’s version of: I Did It My Way

blue-poles

Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles, Australian National Gallery.

K- Wassily Kandinsky –  Arnold Schoenberg’s  Transfigured Night for String Quartet

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Composition_7

Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

L: Norman Lindsay Galapagos Duck performing I Feel Good at the Norman Lindsay Gallery.

The_Magic_Pudding

M- Edvard Munch – Lindsay Stirling’s thrilling violin rendition of The Phantom of the Opera. 

 

Munch_The_Scream_lithography

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895 © The Munch Museum/The Munch Ellingsen Group

N –  Sidney Nolan – Peter Allen singing: I Still Call Australia Home

Kelly with clouds

Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly, National Gallery of Australia

O  Georgia O’Keeffe Frank Sinatra’s New York. New York

_Georgia_O'Keeffe_-_New_York_Street_with_Moon__1925

Georgia O’Keeffe, New York Sky With Moon 1925, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

P Pablo Picasso – John Lennon’s Imagine

Picasso Peace Dove

 Q Queenie McKenzieYothu Yindi – Timeless Land

 

God sending the Holy Spirit Queenie McKenzie

  R Auguste Rodin – John Farnham’s The Voice

Rodin_TheThinker_Rodin Museum Paris

Rodin, The Thinker

 S Salvadore DaliGhostbusters (If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood…)

Persistence of Memory 1931

Salvador Dalí The Persistence of Memory 1931, MOMA.

 T Albert Tucker – INXS – The Devil Inside

 

The City 1946

Albert Tucker, Images of Modern Evil…City, National Gallery of Victoria

Detour Sign

The Great Detour to Monet’s Garden

Accompanied by Franz Liszt – Liebestraum (Love Dream)

Why We Need Monet’s Garden.

Monet’s Greatest Work

The Pondering Photographer in “Monet’s” Pond

                                                  ………

 U Paolo Uccello – Two Cellos playing  Game of Thrones

Paolo_Uccello The Crucifixion The Met

V – Leonardo Da Vinci–David Bowie Heroes to reflect his relationship with the Mona Lisa (I will be King, and you, you will be Queen).  I’ve chosen Star Man,  to reflect the man of science and the great inventor.

Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, The Louvre.

W Andrew Newell WyethCeltic Woman singing You Raise Me Up

Walking Through Christina’s World

 

Christinasworld
Andrew Newell Wyeth, Christina’s World, MOMA.

_______________________________________________________________

stamp news flash in red

*NEWSFLASH – DEAD ARTISTS HIJACK TRAIN*

____________________________________________________________________________________

X -Gao Xi – Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King

 

guo-xi_snow-mountains-664x1024-500x900

Guo Xi, Snow Mountains.

Y – Jack Butler Yeats – The Dubliners: The Town I Loved So Well and Leonard Cohen, Alleluia

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

Jack Butler Yeats, Man in a Train Thinking, 1927

Z – Shibata Zeshin – Enya’s Echoes in Rain.

Shibata Zeshin- On Being An Artist

 

grasshopper-and-sunflower-1877

Shibata Zeshin, The Grasshopper & the Sunflower

Z+     My Favourite Dead Artist

Choir drawing 1975

……………………………………….

 

Did you have any favourites among these artists? Which one really spoke to you?

Also, did you take part in the A-Z Challenge either as a participant or a reader? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you and will be catching on more of the reading side of things now the writing has settled down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

T – Albert Tucker- Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome Back to the A-Z Challenge, where I am writing Letters to Dead Artists through the month of April. Today’s artist, is Australian expressionist Albert Tucker (1914-1999). He is being accompanied by INXS – The Devil Inside.

While it is difficult for me to work out the exact sequence of events, I saw a Retrospective of Albert Tucker’s works in 1990, and I think it was held at the same time as an exhibition of the German Expressionists, who heavily influenced Albert Tucker’s work. I can’t be sure of the exact sequence of events. HOwever, what I do recall, is what it meant for me as a young university student, to stumble across these vivid, emotionally demonstrative paintings when I felt locked inside an inner labyrinth with so much built up angst I could barely breathe. As an extroverted poet who grew up in Volvoland, I found Albert Tucker’s works so liberating. While I might not have been able to show how I was really feeling, he had done it for me, and I particularly felt drawn towards his with its terrifying image of the speeding tram with its glowing headlight staring straight at you. Indeed, I am very, very careful whenever I go to Melbourne around those trams. It wouldn’t take much for one of them to sneak up behind you and flatten you.

The Torment of Love Unsatisfied

Albert Tucker, The Torment of Love Unsatisfied

Well, Albert Tucker was almost over by a tram at night, and so you could say his fear and animosity towards trams is well placed.

However, the tram was just one character which appeared in his famous Images of Modern Evil series, painted between 1943 and 1948.

This series offers a probing and powerful insight into the schismatic socio-political climate of World War II and its aftermath. Moreover, it proved formative in Tucker’s practice as a distillation of humanist, psychological and mythological ideas and as a vehicle for specific motifs and narratives that have endured within his art.

Victory Girls

Albert Tucker, Victory Girls, National Gallery of Australia.

J – Jackson Pollock…Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

As you may be aware, my theme for the 2018 Blogging A-Z April Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Today, I will be writing to American Abstract Expressionist, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). He will be accompanied by Elvis singing: I Did It My Way

In 1973 the National Gallery of Australia purchased Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece, Blue Poles, for a staggering $1.3 million…the highest amount ever paid for an American painting at the time. Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, the purchase was highly controversial, triggering a wave of debate across the country.

Blue Poles newspaper article 1974

Opinions came in thick and fast. Indeed, I even saw him described as “Jack the Dripper”:

“I THINK the money spent on Jackson Pollock’s painting “Blue Poles” would have been better spent on building a four-lane highway linking the capital cities of the Eastern States. The Hume and Pacific Highways are not fit for the traffic they carry these days, and many lives, as well as time and money, would be saved by their improvement.$2 to A. W. (name supplied), Gladstone, N.S.W.[1]

“Mr Daniel Thomas, senior curator of the Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney Morning Herald art critic, described the purchase as “the greatest thing that has happened to art in Australia”.

Artist Sali Herman said, “The whole thing just stinks. I am all in favour of the National Gallery buying good paintings . . . It seems that they have money to give away. I don’t think Pollock is worth two million”.

nla.news-page000024737719-nla.news-article230427808-L3-bb769ed0b291bf41444a6578460e5a05-0001

Mr Henry Hanke, a winner of the Archibald and Sulman art prizes, said he had not seen ‘Blue Poles’ but he “did not think much of paintings created by dribbling paint”.

Another Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, was in favour of the purchase. He said, “The whole art world was affected by Pollock and this was one of his masterpieces. If you have a masterpiece then it is priceless[2]“.

After arriving in Australia in 1974, Blue Poles was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney and our family joined the throngs of Sydneysiders to just to see it. I was almost 5 years old at the time and had just started school. Indeed, I hadn’t even had the suggestion of a wobbly tooth.

This is where our visit starts getting personal, because when I saw Blue Poles up on the wall, it reminded me of the painting my father had done blowing swirls of colourful paint across a dark blue background through a straw. So, what does this one in a million, little kid do? She walks straight up to Blue Poles with all the confidence of the Director of the Art Gallery himself and points a finger right on the painting: “My Daddy painted that!” My 2 year old younger brother also touched it, at least as far as our memories are concerned. Humph! I also remember just as clearly being told off by a very austere Guide of Gestapo proportions, who snapped: “Don’t touch the painting!!” Clearly, I’m lucky I kept my fingers. But, isn’t that what every little kid wants to do, especially with all that thick, oozy paint splashed all over the canvas? It was just begging for sensory-seeking little fingers to touch it, especially back in the olden days when we didn’t have fidget spinners to keep them occupied.

Dads Painting

Dad’s painting 1974. This now reminds me of fireworks over Sydney Harbour, which weren’t a thing back then.

I was quite excited to find this film footage from 1974 showing Blue Poles on display.

After such an experience, how could I not write to Jackson Pollock in this series? Blue Poles could well have been the very first painting I ever saw in an art gallery, and that scolding “Do not touch the paintings” hasn’t left me either. Of course, we can’t have such masterpieces destroyed by grotty fingerprints, but surely art can also be tactile, a complete sensory experience? Indeed, couldn’t art also be an active thing for the viewer, as much as the artist themselves, the creator? Why should they have all the fun?

I was reminded of this hands-off rule of art, when my husband and I took our then four year old son to the Art Gallery of NSW (returning to the scene of my crime as a parent this time, not the child). He was very well-behaved, but he was active. Indeed, I remember feeling very nervous as he started looking at some thousand year old sculptures, wondering if he’d accidentally knock of a head. He wasn’t always looking where he was going.  Could you imagine the guilt of that as a parent? The headlines! No, thanks.

Then, taking after his mother, he walked up to a painting, and said he’d painted one like that at school and I photographed him standing beside it.

Next, after leaving the gallery, we were walking through the park across the road when he found a large autumn leaf on the footpath. He was so excited and he wanted to take it back to the art gallery so someone could make a painting. You should’ve seen his eyes light up with childish enthusiasm and he was so sweet. Meanwhile, I was lost for words. How could I explain that they didn’t want a leaf? Or, for that matter, a pressing of a leaf like he’d made at pre-school? How could I throw cold water on his flame?

IMG_6646

Who’d refuse a leaf from this little rock star…

Perhaps, we should’ve taken him back. I’m sure the gallery staff would’ve thanked him for it and been considerate. She wouldn’t have laughed in his face and told him how much the paintings in the gallery are worth, and how they’re only done by real artists. In other words, that they don’t have leaf prints hanging in the gallery. Instead, I just told him that they don’t make the paintings there. That they’re only on display.

….

Who Was Jackson Pollock?

Jackson Pollock Life Magazine

Beyond all these family anecdotes, there was an artist…Jackson Pollock.

In terms of his bio, he was born on the 28th January, 1912 in Wyoming and grew up in Arizona and California. In 1930, he moved to New York with his brother. 1938 – 1942 he underwent Jungian therapy to treat his alcoholism . October, 1945 he married fellow abstract artist, Lee Krasner and in November, they moved to Long Island. On August 11, 1956 Jackson Pollock died aged 44 when he crashed his car within a mile of his house under the influence of alcohol. Jackson Pollock was an Abstract expressionist.

Pollock provided a solid account of his artistic processes in an interview with Life Magazine in 1949, which was headed: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?”

“Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyo. He studied in New York under Realist Thomas Benton but soon gave this up in utter frustration and turned to his present style. When Pollock decides to start a painting, the first thing he does is to tack a large piece of canvas on the floor of his barn. “My painting does not come from the easel,” he explains, writing in a small magazine called Possibilities 1. “I need the resistance of a hard surface.” Working on the floor gives him room to scramble around the canvas, attacking it from the top, the bottom or the side (if his pictures can be said to have a top, a bottom or a side) as the mood suits him. In this way, “I can… literally be in the painting.” He surrounds himself with quart cans of aluminum paint and many hues of ordinary household enamel. Then, starting anywhere on the canvas, he goes to work. Sometimes he dribbles the paint on with a brush (above). Sometimes he scrawls it on with a stick, scoops it with a trowel or even pours it on straight out of the can. In with it all he deliberately mixes sand (below), broken glass, nails, screws or other foreign matter lying around. Cigarette ashes and an occasional dead bee sometimes get in the picture inadvertently. “When I am in my painting,” says Pollock, “I‘m not aware of what I’m doing.” To find out what he has been doing he stops and contemplate the picture during what he calls his “get acquainted” period. Once in a while a life-like image appears in the painting by mistake. But Pollock cheerfully rubs it out because the picture must retain “a life of its own.” Finally, after days of brooding and doodling, Pollock decides the painting is finished, a deduction few others are equipped to make. [3]

Of course, so much more could be said, but I guess it already has been. So, that leaves me with a letter to write.

A Letter to Jackson Pollock:

Dear Jackson,

There’s so much I could ask you, but I couldn’t resist this simple question:

Are you the greatest dead painter in the United States?

That’s all.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Jackson Pollock

Dear Rowena,

Am I the greatest dead painter in the United States?

I’m still not saying.

Heard you playing the violin(4) last night. Smashed mine as a kid, after it refused to cooperate.

Left you one of my signature apples pies (5) in the fridge, but I ate your pavlova. Would love the recipe. Could you please send it in your next letter. Promise not to get paint all over it.

Keep up these letters. We’ve been passing them round so much, they’re about to fall apart. Looking forward to “K”.

Yours,

Jackson

References

[1] Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), Wednesday 6 March 1974, page 43

[2] Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), Tuesday 25 September 1973, page 7

[3] http://www.theslideprojector.com/pdffiles/art1/pollockarticle.pdf

(4) Bruce Claser “Jackson Pollock: An Interview with Lee Krasner” Arts Magazine 41, No. 6 (April 1967) pp 36-39.  Reprinted in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles & Reviews edited by Pepe Karmel, 1999, The Museum of Modern Art. Distributed by HN Abrams. p 34. Link.

(5) Jackson Pollock loved baking and also made a great spaghetti sauce Ibid p 33.

 

 

D- Edgar Degas…A-Z Challenge.

“And even this heart of mine has something artificial. The dancers have sewn it into a bag of pink satin, pink satin slightly faded, like their dancing shoes.”
― Edgar Degas

Welcome to Day Four of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may recall, my theme this year is “Letters to Dead Artists”. Today, I’ll be writing to so-called French impressionist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and we will be focusing on his sculpture: the Little Dancer and to a lesser extent, his paintings of dancers.

“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.”

-Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas is one of those rare individuals who remain an enigma, no matter how far you delve inside their head, or process all the detritus they’ve left behind. While I was initially attracted to his dance works because they reminded me of my young daughter, as I came to learn more about the darker, seedy undertones and implicit prostitution, that all changed. Naturally, I also wanted to extricate my daughter from those associations immediately. That’s clearly not the life I want for her. Yet, that doesn’t change the beauty Degas has captured in these dancers. Moreover, it didn’t change the sense of awe I felt when my daughter performed her first ballet solo on stage recently either. How I saw her moving within that great tradition of ballet, ballerinas, tutus and dreams.

As far as choosing a piece of music for Degas, I couldn’t help referring to Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Little Swans. After all, I have a little swan all of my own…

Amelia YIPA Photo

Our Little Dancer

Yet, there were other ways I came to relate to Degas, which were totally unexpected. You see, by 1870 at age of 36 Degas was going blind, which caused him a great deal of anguish. Moreover, he didn’t suffer in silence and his anguish was conveyed in numerous letters:

To Rouart (September 11): “I have In 1888 he wrote to Evariste De Valernes (October 26): “I was or I seemed to be hard with everyone through a sort of passion for brutality, which came from my uncertainty and my bad humour. I felt myself so badly made, so badly equipped, so weak, whereas it seemed to me, that my calculations on art were so right. I brooded against the whole world and against myself… I found in you again the same vigorous mind, the same vigorous and steady hand, and I envy you your eyes which will enable you to see everything until the last day. Mine will not give me this joy; I can scarcely read the papers a little and in the morning, when I reach my studio, if I have been stupid enough to linger somewhat over the deciphering, I can no longer get down to work.”

1891: Degas can no longer see well enough to read. He begins treatment under the famous Swiss ophthalmologist, Edmund Landolt.

1893, to Valernes (undated): “…I am dreading a stay in my room, without work, without being able to read, staring into space. My sight too is changing, for the worse. I am pitying myself, so that you may know that you are not the only unhappy person… With regard to writing, ah! my friends can scarcely count on me. Just imagine that to re-read, re-read what I write to you, would present such difficulty, even with the magnifying glass, that I should give it up after the first lines.”

Degas The Ballet Class Musee d'Orsay

Edgar Degas, The Ballet Class, Musee D’Orsay.

In an eerie coincidence, when I was also 36, my muscles started wasting away. However, it wasn’t until my diagnosis in August 2007 18 grueling months later, that I found out what was going on. By this point, I couldn’t dress myself, roll over in bed or even pull the doona over myself. Indeed, six weeks before my diagnosis, I fell at home and much to my horror, couldn’t get up again. I was lying face down on the floor alone with the kids and in so much pain. It was very tempting to give up, especially as I’d tripped over the broom my son had left on the floor and I was so angry. Hurt. Indeed, if ever there was a time I felt defeated, this was it. However, I guess the incredibility of the situation must have hit me. Why couldn’t I get myself up? Had I been snaffled up into a bad dream? Clearly not, so I’d just had to grab myself by the boot straps and get going. I managed to shuffle into the kitchen on my backside and much to my amazement, the cordless phone was in reach. I rang my husband at work, and he recommended I lever myself up with a chair. It worked and my day continued as usual. I didn’t even call the doctor. However, I did give a friend a key to my front door!

Having a condition which fluctuates, or gradually deteriorates, is very different to having a situation like an accident, for example, where you might have a clear cut change. It makes it very difficult to reach an ongoing point of acceptance, because the status quo is always changing.

So, I know that sense of fear. I know his desperation to find anything which might stop the inevitable. Yet, like Degas, I’ve also tried to make the most of what I’ve got and carpe diem seize the day. Indeed, living with something precious which is slipping away, really helps you savour every second. Degas kept painting and sculpting as long as he could, and once that was impossible he went on long walks around Paris, as if releasing that energy through his feet.

Indeed, not long before his death, he was filmed walking through Paris: Degas Walking Through Paris 1915

Now, before I actually write to Edgar Degas, I thought I’d better share a few details about The Little Dancer.

The Little Dancer

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.”

Isadora Duncan

Perhaps, you have seen the statue of the Little Dancer in your travels. However, I would like to make it clear that the bronze statue that we see today, isn’t the same Little Dancer which Degas displayed at the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. Rather, it is a bronze which was cast in 1920 after Degas’s death. In recent years, a controversial plaster cast of the Little Dancer has come to light, which according to Dr Gregory Hedberg, could be closer to the original sculpture.  I highly recommend you watch this lecture, which is very much like a forensic report. It blew me away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pr3OYfY0zc&feature=youtu.be

So, without any further ado, here’s my letter to Edgar Degas:

My Letter to Degas

Dear Degas,

There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you’ve back from the dead for the day so you can read this letter and give me some sort of reply. The bad news is that we have no money and so we’ll be “tumbleweeds” sleeping on the floor at the Shakespeare Bookshop. I don’t know if the requirements have changed since I gave a reading here, but I think we’ll have to help out in the bookshop and read a book while we’re here. You might even like to read Dr Gregory Hedberg’s book: Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The Earlier Version That Helped Spark the Birth of Modern Art. As for myself, I’m going to re-read Anais’s Nin’s Henry and June. I read it when I was last in Paris and let’s just say I wasn’t in a good way.

While we could talk at length about our respective medical struggles, I would much rather take you to the Musee D’orsay and ask you what you think of the Litter Dancer as she appears today? Is she your Little Dancer and does she bare any resemblance to the statute which appeared at the Impressionist Exhibition in 1881? I have my doubts. Also, as much as I’m pleased we can still enjoy a Little Dancer, I’m not sure about the ethics of putting her on public display without your consent. You are clearly a meticulous and precise man and from what I can gather, you weren’t happy with how she ended up. I don’t know if you kept trying to change her and touch her up and something went wrong, like someone who has had too much plastic surgery. The other concern I have is that was seemingly altered after you’d turned blind and weren’t working much at all. Perhaps, I’ve got that wrong. I’m trying to get my head around some pretty complex details on the fly, and I’d really appreciate it if you could help me out.

Anyway, could you please let me know what you think of the Little Dancer.

Meanwhile, I’m off for a walk. You’re not the only one who loves to walk the streets of Paris.

Warm regards,

Rowena

A Reply From Degas

Dear Rowena,

My time on earth was brief, but that wretched dancer is eternal. I’d locked her up. She was never meant to see the light of day. Now, all my mistakes are being portrayed as my greatest work. My inner world has been turned inside out, and is out on public display. There’s nothing left to call my own. Rowena, my only advice to upcoming artists, is to save yourself from the vultures. Light a match before you die.

Meet me Musee d’Orsay at midnight. I’ve found a van.

Yours,

Degas