A Window into the World of Degas

Edgar Degas,  The Dance Class,  c. 1873, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (William A. Clark Collection)

Edgar Degas, The Dance Class, c. 1873, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (William A. Clark Collection)

by Anna Herrera

What is the first thing you think of when you think of the artist Edgar Degas? I think of ballerinas. The beautiful dancers with their hair pinned up, skirts full of body that flow to their knees, along with their ballet shoes with ribbon laced up their legs. They are preparing to go on stage to dance to lovely music to enchant their audience.  

But did you know that Degas also painted strong horses racing with their jockeys long the countryside to get the prize? Landscapes with boats that transport you to another place and time? His occupation did not only include paintings in color, but also included many pencil sketches, printmaking, photography and sculptures that became just as popular within the art community. It is through these various types of art that shows us how his techniques and learnings progressed. So what about his personal life? Was Degas rich or poor? Was he an only child or had siblings? Did he enjoy living in the city or did he prefer the country? Did he always want to be an artist or had he been schooled to be of another profession?

A few weeks ago, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church was so fortunate to have a special Degas curator, Carolyn Johnson, guide art enthusiasts to learn about Degas. We journeyed through his life and how his life shows through his art. We learned so much about Degas during our time together. We had “ah- ha” moments, funny moments, wow moments, and quiet moments as we learned about the things we were seeing. The exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is the largest Degas exhibit that brings together pieces from many museums and private collections. I always find it interesting to see what people buy for their own collections. I think of it as a little window into their world. I hope you are able to spend some time in the world of Degas. You may find something in his art that will be a little window into your world.


Degas: A New Vision is on exhibit next-door to St. Paul's UMC at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, now until January 16, 2017.