An outstanding exhibition in Toledo, Ohio, is celebrating both the city’s ballet heritage and the art and legacy of Edgar Degas.
This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the Toledo Ballet, which offers the oldest continuously running annual “Nutcracker” performances in the United States. In celebration and in conjunction with the ballet, the Toledo Museum of Art has organized “Degas and Dance,” a lovely exhibition that features iconic works by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) from the museum’s own collection alongside major loans from the United States and Europe. Lawrence W. Nichols, the museum’s William Hutton senior curator of American painting and sculpture, noted, “This very special exhibition provides the museum with the wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the most beloved dance imagery ever created and in the process to underscore the important heritage of Degas at the museum and the rich legacy of 75 years of the ‘Nutcracker’ in Toledo.”
Edgar Degas, “The Ballet Class,” ca. 1873-1876, oil on canvas, 33 x 29 1/2 in. (c) Musee d’Orsay, Paris 2015
Indeed, the exhibition seems particularly apropos given the modern artist’s fascination with dance and, specifically, ballet. Degas would frequent the Paris opera to study its performers in the rehearsal rooms, backstage spaces, and auditorium, which helped him establish a noteworthy career during his lifetime. Museum Director Brian Kennedy says, “It is only natural that the Toledo Museum of Art would organize an exhibition dedicated to Degas and the dance given our history with the artist and the Toledo Ballet.” Kennedy’s statement calls attention to the museum’s very first acquisition, which came in 1928 from endowed funds left by its founder, Edward Drummond Libbey. The work? You guessed it: an exquisite pastel drawing of ballerinas by Degas, now a feature of the exhibition.
Edgar Degas, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,” ca. 1879-1919, bronze with gauze tutu and silk ribbon, wooden base, 39 in. (c) The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute 2015
The exhibition will present not only Degas’s two-dimensional work, but his sculptural bronzes as well. Six sculptures anchor the show while several paintings of dancers and the museum’s original pastel comprise the two-dimensional works. Also worthy of mention is the installation of an actual dance studio within an adjacent gallery, complete with ballet barre, dance floor, and mirrors. In fact, students from the Toledo Ballet will periodically rehearse in the space for all to see in preparation for a January 3 performance. Admission to “Degas and the Dance” is free, and the exhibition is on view through January 10.
To learn more, visit the Toledo Museum of Art.
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