The Royal Academy’s landmark autumn exhibition is nothing short of rich. It is an accolade to Edgar Degas, an insight into the 19th century obsession with movement, a venture into the early experimentations of photography, and a historical archive of ballet. With its pastel hues and painted frills, Degas’s work on dance can be fleetingly branded as the stuff of chocolate boxes, calendars and stationery. And with ballet’s seamless entrance into popular culture in 2011, ‘Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement’ could be–put simply–an easy and pleasurable art viewing experience.
However distinguished curator Richard Kendall is determined to show the Parisian artist’s original way of viewing in its scientific and revolutionary contexts for the first time. As a champion of the Impressionist movement in the late 1870s, Degas developed a fascination with capturing the realism of modern life, particularly through the walls of the Paris Opéra.