Skip to main content

Degas in practice: behind the models

Taking inspiration from our exhibition ‘Discover Degas and Miss La La’, join us to learn more about Degas, his practice, and who he captured in his dynamic artworks
Date
  • Tuesday, 25 June 2024
  • Tuesday, 2 July 2024
  • Tuesday, 9 July 2024
  • Tuesday, 16 July 2024
Time
3.30 - 5.30 pm BST
Available online only

About

A fantastic artist and complex character, Edgar Degas could uniquely and deftly capture the human in motion, on stage, and in intimate moments of daily life. His intensely human compositions are often underscored and amplified by the lives of his subjects and models. Inspired by the exhibition ‘Discover Degas and Miss La La’ focusing on the life and career of the talented circus artist Miss La La, or Anna Albertine Olga Brown (1858‒1945), this course expands upon Degas to focus on aspects of his models and subjects from the circus, to the opera, to daily life. 

We will consider Degas’s work through the lenses of his models, their histories, their costumes and fashion, and through his creative methods of making and modelling. Each week we will focus on different aspects of Degas’s subjects and how his creative practice enabled him to capture them and their lives in two and three dimensions, in paint, pastel, ink, wax, and bronze. 

Image: Detail from Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 'Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure')', about 1896

Week 1 - Introduction to Degas

Degas in practice: behind the models
Date
Tuesday, 25 June 2024

The first week of the course will serve as an introduction to Degas and his practice. An expert draftsman with prolific output that greatly influenced artists after him such as Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Despite exhibiting with the Impressionists, Degas defies categorization stylistically.  

While he was in dialogue with his contemporaries, Degas was an artist singular to himself in many respects. He was a painter intensely dedicated to his craft, who became increasingly isolated over his lifetime. Alongside art historian Aliki Braine, we will consider an overview of his works in conversation with his biography. We also will also explore Degas's use of photography to revolutionise his compositions and depictions of modern life.

Week 2- Modelling of the human figure: Process

Degas in practice: behind the models
Date
Tuesday, 2 July 2024

We will consider Degas’s modelling of the human figure in his drawings, paintings and sculptures.  Artist educator Jo Conybeare will explore Degas’s complex artistic process more widely. While his extraordinary paintings, drawings, and sculptures may appear as effortless as a ballerina on stage, both the subjects of his work and his process’s ease are the result of experimentation across artistic mediums and meticulous and deliberate effort. After all, Degas himself said ‘In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement.’ 

We will hear also hear from Daphne Barbour, Senior Objects Conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. who is the expert on Degas’s wax sculptures. In her presentation she will discuss his sculpture practice as well as conservation findings from analysis of his waxes. 

Week 3- Women: From Miss La La to Mary

Degas in practice: behind the models
Date
Tuesday, 9 July 2024

In the third week, Fiona Alderton will investigate Degas's dynamics with his female subject and models, shedding light on the complex life of many of the female subjects. Often painting women at work, from milliners, to laundresses, to ballerinas, she will examine their lived experiences and labour during the nineteenth century. We also consider Degas's relationships with his fellow female artists, some of whom who also served as models, such as Mary Cassatt. 

We will also hear from Metropolitan Museum of Art Curator Denise Murrell about Degas and his relationship to blackness and black and bi-racial models during the 19th century. Denise will touch more on Degas’s work ‘Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando’, and the exhibition and research coming out of ‘Discover Degas and Miss La La’

Week 4 - Costumes and fashion: On and off stage

Degas in practice: behind the models
Date
Tuesday, 16 July 2024

In this week’s session, Jacqui Ansell will be highlighting Degas’s depictions of clothing and costume on and off the stage and how they shed light on the lives of the women and men painted in them. The first session will explore Degas’s rendering of costumes on stage. We will explore his representations of clothing from ballerinas, to dancing nuns, to Miss La La.  

The second half of the session will examine Degas’s renditions of clothing and fashion off the stage, as we examine how Degas captured contemporary styles across social classes at the end of the century.

Your Tutors

Aliki Braine is an artist and art historian. She studied at The Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford, The Slade School of Fine Art, London and The Courtauld Institute where she was awarded a distinction for her masters in 17th century painting. Having worked for the National Gallery’s education department for over twenty years, Aliki now regularly teaches for the Wallace Collection, Christie’s Education and The Arts Society and is an Associate Lecturer for the Camberwell College, University of the Arts London. She regularly exhibits her work internationally and has had recent exhibitions in Oxford, Paris, Vienna, Madrid and London. 

Dr Denise Murrell is the Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Large, Office of the Director, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she curated The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism exhibition, currently on view through July 28th. As Curator at Large, she works with the Modern & Contemporary and European Paintings departments on exhibitions, acquisitions and related programming. She was the curator of the exhibition Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today (2018/19) at Columbia University's Wallach Art Gallery as its Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar. She was a co-curator of the exhibition's expansion at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, as Le Modèle Noir de Géricault à Matisse (2019) and a guest lecturer for its final tour at the Memorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Dr Murrell has taught art history at Columbia University in New York and in Paris. She has published and lectured extensively on nineteenth -twentieth century modernism and global contemporary art. 

Jacqui Ansell is a former Education Officer at the National Gallery who has devised and delivered courses, scholarly study days, and tours based on the collection for many years. A specialist in dating and decoding paintings through details of dress, she lectures on aspects of art and dress history for the Wallace Collection, National Portrait Gallery and the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS). After 15 years as Senior Lecturer at Christie's Education, writing and presenting courses on the fine and decorative arts, she now works as a freelance consultant and lecturer offering tailor-made tours of London galleries.

Fiona Alderton is a Gallery Educator and storyteller at the National Gallery. With a background in performing, she writes and leads sessions for adults and children, including commissions for various organisations such as the National Portrait Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, and the Royal Opera House in London. 

Daphne Barbour, senior objects conservator at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., received her M.A. in art history and certificate in art conservation from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She joined the National Gallery in 1987 after completing an advanced internship in conservation at the Fogg Art Museum. While preparing technical matter on works of art for the National Gallery Systematic Catalogues, including co-authoring Edgar Degas Sculpture (2010), she developed a keen interest in technical study. Since 2010 she has served as a managing editor for the National Gallery conservation journal entitled Facture.  Barbour has also collaborated on exhibitions including contributing technical essays to catalogues such as The Sacred Made Real (2009).

Joanna Conybeare is an artist and Gallery Educator who has worked in Primary and Secondary schools in London and the south coast as a teacher and subject lead for Art and Design. In her own artistic practice, she uses clay, porcelain and terracotta to explore the figure, enjoying the immediacy of the material that enables her to ‘draw’ three-dimensionally. 

Watch again

Can't make Tuesday afternoons but don't want to miss out? No problem, you can watch again.

The sessions are recorded and made available to you for one week.

A video of the week's lecture will be uploaded and available for you to watch via your National Gallery account on Thursday afternoons. Just be sure to watch it by the following Thursday, as it will be taken down.

Booking Information

This is an online ticketed course hosted on Zoom. Please book a ticket to access the course. Only one ticket can be booked per account. 

You will be emailed an E-ticket with instructions on how to access the course via your National Gallery account. All course information including your Zoom link, weekly handouts, and recordings will be available here. 

Your link will be valid for the duration of the course.

Booking after the course has started

You are welcome to join the module at any point during its four-week run. However, please note that you will only be able to see the recording from the previous session, as these are taken offline after one week.

Courses

Degas in practice: behind the models

Taking inspiration from our exhibition ‘Discover Degas and Miss La La’, join us to learn more about Degas, his practice, and who he captured in his dynamic artworks
Date
  • Tuesday, 25 June 2024
  • Tuesday, 2 July 2024
  • Tuesday, 9 July 2024
  • Tuesday, 16 July 2024
Time
3.30 - 5.30 pm BST
Available online only

Enrol

Standard: £50
Concessions: £47

Please book a ticket to access the event. You will receive an E-ticket with instructions on how to access your online events, films and resources via your National Gallery account. 

Please note, only one ticket can be booked per account. Bookings close ten minutes before the event.

Concessions are for full-time students, jobseekers, and disabled adults.