Degas’ Little Dancer – the mixed media sculpture experiment nearly everyone hated

Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was pretty controversial when it was first shown in the 1880s. In this Moment in Art History we’ll discuss the sculpture, the criticism, and the development of mixed media art.

 

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

18 Comments

  1. That was so interesting. I am not a fan of the fussiness of mixed media, however Degas’ LittleDancer… is beautifully simplistic and minimal.

  2. I was lucky enough to see one of these pieces several times at Harvard’s Fogg Museum during the museum studies classes that I took. I love the piece. Yes, there’s a gnarliness to her, but it’s grounded. I find it Wabi Sabi. The Fogg has several Degas’ that are just to die for. He was truly a draftsman and a painter. I admire what he accomplished with his vision loss. My understanding is that he was psychologically affected by his vision loss. I don’t know if he realized how well he leveraged his disability.

  3. No, it did not deserve all the negative criticism,but, as is too often the case the “critics” are slow to pick up on something new unless it fits thier narrative of what should be new.

  4. I love Degas work. I have a reproduction of the ‘Little dancer’ and have seen the original. I also have a passion for dance as I studied ballet for 15 years. The Little Dancer shows tenseness in her arms which dipicts the strenth and discipline needed to perfect this most athletic creative of all the sports-art forms.
    It is my passsion for ballet and movement that creeps into most of my watercolour works.

  5. I should have added that I own a copy of this created in paper mache and net fabric by my husband who was also an artist. Many people cannot believe tha it isn’t the real McCoy.

  6. I was unaware this sculpture was originally in wax and mixed media, thank you for sharing this with us. I create wax-based work and feel I should have already been aware.

  7. I always enjoy reading, hearing or watching something by Jason. I have just finished reading “The Painted Girls” by Buchanan, and so this video was very timely for me. Year’s ago I read Jason’s first book, “Starving to Successful” and used the information to develop my confidence to get back into painting. I submitted a few of my pieces which Xanadu was kind to add to their website. I also used the information in the book to approach a gallery and sold some new pieces there which increased my confidence level a lot. I then began to get calls from people who’d seen my work in someone’s home and wanted to inquire about anything new that I had finished. So, now I look forward to every “RedDotBlog” because It’s interesting, it keeps me informed and it’s entertaining. Thanks Jason!

  8. Your video was excellent, though it left me wanting more. I’m about to get on the Internet to read more about Degas mixed media piece. I have always been very interested in the guy, and a lot of the Impressionists. Being a native New Orleanian, I feel proud that Degas spent time in New Orleans working in the late 1800s. I believe the ballerina piece to be amazingly exquisite. The facial expression, postural expression, and feeling of the total piece is so very well portrayed! I work in mixed media sculpture myself here in New Orleans, and most of my pieces are of the female form, God‘s greatest gift to man and to beauty! After viewing this video, I will approach my works with renued vigor and aesthetic!

  9. I quite enjoyed a historical fiction novel about the model for this statue. An excellent novel called the Painted Girls by Buchanan It surely brought the art to life.

  10. I am a huge fan of Degas as well as a hughe fan of ballet. Loved this piece! Thank you for bringing art history in an entertaining way to all of us. These videos should be shown in all schools.

  11. I have had the honor of seeing the original and it is simply beautiful. I find Degas’ work fabulous, his brushwork is so fresh and the color is refined. It could not get any better…

  12. Thank you for this moment in art history! Little Dancer has always been a favorite as well as Degas’ exceptional gift for drawing , color, and composition. Did the sculpture deserve the criticism during its day? Well, no… but it does help us see how tastes change and expand and often it takes someone whose work is well respected , like Degas or Picasso, to help “break the mold” of thinking. I believe that Rodin was also criticized for his passionate way of handling the clay , resulting in what some of his contemporaries considered to be a mess.
    I didn’t connect that wax figures dressed in costumes already existed in Degas’ day. Thank you for your insights.

  13. I did enjoy your beautifully crafted video. But as a francophile and francophone, and tragic pedant to boot, I am always disappointed by the common mispronunciation of Edgar Degas’ family name. Since there is no acute accent over the “e”, it is pronounced “D-uh-gah” rather than “Daygah”. However, I think it’s a losing battle.

    1. Yes Dai – I’m afraid my French isn’t nearly as good as my Spanish and Portuguese, but I decided I wasn’t going to let my poor pronunciation stop me from producing these videos. If I can ever find time, German and French are on my list.

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