Degas as an animation influence

Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper

Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper, c. 1873, by Degas. Image from http://www.metmuseum.org

Edgar Degas’ artistic methods, expression, and subject matter align his work and process closely with that of contemporary 2D animators. Primarily interested in painting figurative scenes that capture contemporary Parisian life, Degas kept notebooks containing studies of hands, architectural features, mise-en-scene, ballet dancers, horses etc. that he would use as references for his paintings. According to art historian Linda Bolton, Degas “believed in committing a subject to memory through repeated drawing”, a technique that enabled him to complete works through informed imagination rather than direct observation; he was also one of the first artists to use a camera, which he used to obtain reference imagery. In studying his use of pastel and pastel over gouache, animators can learn mixed media techniques that convey expression of line and movement. Beyond technique, Degas’ innovative work dissolved boundaries for what is considered “appropriate” subject matter in art, and works like “After the Bath” and “At the Terrace of the Cafe” show that even the quotidian can be fascinating and emotive.

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