When Chiara Gonzalez and Laura Tosar saw their first original Degas in QAGOMA, the ballet dancers felt like stepping right into the frame.
French artist Edgar Degas is known for his romantic behind-the-scenes paintings of ballet dancers from the Paris Opera in tutus. So when Chiara Gonzalez and Laura Tosar saw their first original Degas at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, the two Queensland Ballet dancers felt like they were stepping right into the frame.
« It’s perfect. He has completely captured the essence of ballet dancers and what goes on behind the scenes, » Gonzalez said.
Degas’ Dancers, Pink and Green, c. 1890 is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York exhibition European Masterpieces. It opens on Saturday (June 12) in GOMA, the only Australian venue, and will run until October 17.
Dancers, Pink and Green is one of the top 65 paintings in the exhibition that spans 500 years of masterpieces by Fra Angelico, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and many others.
Joint organizers of GOMA, The Met and Art Exhibitions Australia said that art gives important food to the public during Covid-19, so they went ahead with the show despite additional logistical hurdles.
Certainly for Gonzalez and Tosar, both 23, seeing the Degas was a rare treat and they saw all their known actions in the painting.
“She checks her ribbons (on her pointe). They should be tucked away, » Tosar said.
One girl in the painting checked the pins in her hair, while another checked her shoulder strap for kinks.
Li Cunxin, artistic director of the Queensland Ballet, whose dramatic life story is told in the film Mao’s Last Dancer, said Degas’ ballet paintings were much loved by dancers, although they are usually seen only as posters.
« I think everyone (in the dance world) really grew up with the Degas dancers, » Cunxin said.
“Even when I first came to America from China, there was an old poster of one of his paintings on the wall of the dance studio. I just thought, my God, it’s just so romantic and beautiful.”
Today’s ballet dancers are much fitter than they were in Degas’ time. A dancer could do 30 performances in the 1890s.
« Our dances make more than 130 performances a year, » Cunxin said.
GOMA director Chris Saines said the show was « a big moment » for the gallery, and easily the most notable it has ever offered.
« We’ve been talking about this with The Met since May 2018, » Saines said.
« We are excited and honored that the show is coming here. »
The author flew to Brisbane courtesy of Art Exhibitions Australia.
Originally published as Degas’ Dancers Lovingly Find New Audiences in Blockbuster Show
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