ARTH 585
Meaning in Making in the the Work of Degas
Instructor: Professor Lindsay
T 3-5

Course Description

This seminar pursues a highly topical concern among art historians today: the meaning of materiality, through the work of Edgar Degas (1834-1917), an artist who stands out for a technique and choice of materials that, critics then and now say, contributed forcefully to the content and reception of his imagery. His obsession with craft, old and new, in fact led to an extraordinary range of mediums--oil paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, photography, and sculpture. We will consequently explore his work by medium in order to probe the essential nature, traditions, and symbolics of the main types and what his particular pursuits in each might be. Given our dual conceptual and material interest, we will discuss the scholarly literature in the range of its positions ("new" and scientific/curatorial), but also take field trips to museum galleries, study rooms, and the conservation lab, where conservators will guide us on what to look for and how. We will closely examine a major Degas show that will open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the semester, Degas and the Dance, and participate, schedules permitting, in complementary programs for scholars. Our overriding tasks in this course are to consider how the work of art conveys its force and possible meaning, and to probe deeper into methods of looking and thinking about possible relationships between content, medium, and technique.

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Last update: November 1, 2002

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