Friday, June 19, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (self-portrait, left) is best known to the general public for his paintings of ballet dancers and of women in various stages of bathing. I can't easily define the reason his paintings don't appeal to me. I'm probably in the minority, for Degas is revered by many who are far more educated in the finer points of artistry - my husband for instance.

Wikipedia has notes on his personality; having read these, I have to say that his art is not the only thing that doesn't appeal to me!

Degas, who believed that "the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown", lived an outwardly uneventful life. In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon" by the novelist George Moore, and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant. Although Degas painted a number of Jewish subjects from 1865 to 1870, his anti-Semitism became apparent by the mid 1870s. His 1879 painting At The Bourse is widely regarded as strongly anti-Semitic, with the facial features of the banker taken directly from the anti-Semitic cartoons rampant in Paris at the time.

The Dreyfus Affair, which divided Paris from the 1890s to the early 1900s, further intensified his anti-Semitism. By the mid 1890s, he had broken off relations with all of his Jewish friends, publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic "Anti-Dreyfusards" until his death.

He publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic "Anti-Dreyfusards" until his death.

For the last 20 years of his life Degas was virtually blind and led a reclusive life. He was a formidable personality and his complete devotion to his art made him seem cold and aloof (as far as is known, he never had any kind of romantic involvement). Classic Aquarius risng? Yes - as it used to be presented. I'd argue with it in general, but here it seems appropriate that Degas, with Aquarius rising, clearly fits the mould.

Can a curmudgeonly personality, filled with prejudice, be identified in his natal chart?

Edgar Degas was born on 19 July 1834 in Paris, France. Astrodatabank has his time of birth at 8.30pm.

I've gazed at the chart for a long time. There's nothing blindingly obvious to account for the unfortunate traits described at Wikipedia, but there are several qunincunx (150*) aspects which astrologers look on as scratchy and irritable - they're one sign off being direct oppositions. In this chart we have Mercury (mental process) in showy Leo quincunx Moon (inner life) and ruler of his Sun sign, in serious, old-fashioned business oriented Capricorn. We have Sun in sensitive, nuturing Cancer quincunx rebellious, shock-driven Uranus in its own domain of Aquarius, which is usually thought to be a socially aware sign. We have yet another tight quincunx via Venus (artistry) in detail oriented Virgo to Neptune (imagination, creativity) in Aquarius. So here, normally socially aware and reform driven Aquarius is struggling under two quincunx aspects, the positive side of Aquarius seems unable to surface, in spite of the fact that it is Degas' rising sign. There is certainly an uncomfortable and scratchy network of aspects there.

There are several square (90*) aspects too, but most people have a few of these - their life challenges. A Grand Trine in Air signs linking Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune probably accounted for that wit Wikipedia mentions. "Often cruel", they add - well, Saturn is part of that Grand Trine circuit and Saturn has a cold and sometimes cruel reputation.

In his most popular work Degas concentrates on female figures. It's said that he did so in order to make money to help pay his brother's debts. His Sun in Moon-ruled Cancer easily relates to the feminine, and Moon in business-driven Capricorn brings in the link of the feminine form being used commercially.


anyjazz said...

Good examination.

Actually a lot of the more famous artists were not exemplary personalities. Pollock, Picasso, Kahlo come to mind first.

My page on the Degas nude at bath is he third most visited page on my blog.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz - Thanks!

Thanks, too, for the link to yours, re all his bathing ladies.

It's a sad fact that many of our icons, past and present had/have feet of clay. I guess we ought to judge them purely on their output.
It's easier to do so in some cases more than others.

I didn't know about Degas' background before researching for this post, but I've never, ever cared for his paintings - maybe I just "knew" - neenoo-nee-noo - Well - y'are in my T-zone, after all. Luv, Twilight.

Shawn Carson said...

Hi Twilight,
I learn about the most interesting people from your stories! I find his depiction of the female form to be appealing in a distant sort of way. He doesn't seem engaged with any of his semi nude subjects, yet he captures the softness that attracts us.

anthonynorth said...

I didn't know much about this fellow, so this was interesting. And, of course, he fits the pattern perfectly. Ah, these troubled artists ...

Twilight said...

Shawn ~~~ I know what you mean - there's really no "peeping Tom" feel to the bathing paintings either. They are respectful of the subject. I guess I must give him credit where it's due, even though I don't like his work in general. ;-)

Twilight said...

AN ~~~ Yes, so many of them seem to be troubled in one way or another. I suppose their art is their therapy.