Tampa Museum of Art brings famed impressionist to Tampa for the first time with Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique

The exhibition Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique has just opened at the Tampa Museum of Art much to the delight and anticipation of many Degas fans in the Tampa area.  But even if you don’t consider yourself a huge fan of Degas’ work, the exhibition is definitely worth the trip into downtown Tampa.

It is one of Tampa Museum of Art’s most revered exhibitions to date and is the first ever exhibition of the famous impressionist’s works in the Tampa Bay region. The exhibition marks an important step in a positive direction not just for TMA but also for the arts culture in Tampa Bay as a whole.

For those of you thinking that a Degas exhibition is nothing more than a few pretty ballerinas, Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique will get you thinking about and appreciating Degas in a whole new way.

While most impressionist artists are synonymous with a fascination of the effects of lighting and modernity, TMA’s exhibition shows how Degas differed from most other impressionists.

“Degas was actually the most conservative of the group of impressionists,” explains Todd Smith, executive director of Tampa Museum of Art.

Instead of focusing on modern ideas alone, Degas consistently looked to the past for inspiration in his works.  In one of three sections of the exhibition, you’ll find a selection of Greek and Roman works from TMA’s own outstanding collection of antiquities meant to complement Degas’ works and demonstrate the influence antique forms had on the artist.  Smith also points out that Degas was more fascinated by the concept of movement than lighting.  The exhibition is ultimately a selection of bronze sculptures, paintings, and drawings showcasing Degas’ exploration of form and movement.

The show is divided into three sections- the horses, the dancers, and the bathers- each focusing  on a different aspect of Degas’ career as an artist.  The bronze sculptures encompass the middle  room and arguably seem to draw the most attention from visitors, excellently displaying Degas’  fascination with movement and admiration of ballerinas.  These bronze sculptures, including  "Spanish Dance" seen to the left, seem to have no sense of frontality, forcing the viewer to circle  the works and thereby creating the very movement Degas was trying to capture.

Contrary to the popular image of ballerinas as poised and elegant, many of the ballerinas shown  in both the sculptures and two-dimensional works are somewhat awkward, sometimes slouching  or checking their feet, such as the sculpture shown below "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years."  This  awkwardness brings an endearing humanity to the ballerinas that  Degas is now famous for and is  part of the reason his work still earns millions of admirers.

Don’t wait too long to visit this exciting first for Tampa  Bay — Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique will only be at the Tampa Museum of Art until June 19.

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