Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys (study) As preparation for this Saturday’s workshop Paint like Degas, I’m digging in some art history to get perspective on the range of Degas’ art. Although he was eternally unsatisfied with his work, and he could a miserable jerk to people, early in his career it seems he was especially extra miserable with his artwork. He started five paintings, and after years for studies, four out of the five paintings were abandoned. After his classical education in Paris and a three-year period of study in Italy, Degas returned to Paris thinking he’d revive the historical painting genre. I don’t know why he thought this was a good idea, but he did. He began work on five paintings: Daughter of Jephthah, Semiramis Building Babylon, Alexander and Bucephalus, Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys and Scene of War in the Middle Ages. He painted for years, making study after study, and only completed one of the paintings. Daughter of Jephthah (study) Daughter of Jephthah (unfinished) Drapery Study. Study for Semiramis Building Babylon, 1860-1862. Graphite, pencil and white gouache on blue-grey paper. 32.8 x 31.3 cm The drapery study (right) is one of a series of preparatory sketches for the painting Semiramis Building Babylon. This drawing shows Semiramis’ attendant, standing just behind the queen. The character was first drawn nude to determine the exact position of the body, then drawn half-draped and finally drawn fully draped. The delicate shading of the pencil with the softly painted white, helps subtly model the forms of the body wrapped in the fabric. Degas worked on this painting for almost two years, executing numerous studies in pencil, wash, pastel and oil, for the overall composition and each one of the characters. Semiramis Building Babylon (study) Semiramis Building Babylon (unfinished) Alexander and Bucephalus (study) Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys The numerous preparatory studies that have survived reflect the slow and difficult maturation of these works. Degas eventually abandoned his compositions, leaving most of them unfinished. Only Scene of War in the Middle Ages was completed and presented at the Salon of 1865. Scene of War in the Middle Ages (completed and presented at the Salon in 1865) The Paint like Degas 2 day workshop starts this Saturday. Artists are welcome to make studies in charcoal, pastel, monotype, or paint. We’ll have a model on the first day, and we’ll work from photographs on the second, like Degas did. Suffering through miserable multi-year grinders (like Degas did) are artist’s choice, and not at all required for this workshop. What would you enjoy? Sign up for Draw, Sketch, Print, Paint like Degas.