Musicians – Degas and the problem of picturing movement

Throughout the Autumn I have continued my series of drawings of musicians during rehearsal, mostly working from a string quartet. Alongside, I have continued my research of artists who worked from musicians while performing. I have known of some quartet drawings and a painting by Patrick Symons that I have admired for many years, but then I came across further oil studies by him of solo instrumentalists. I also remembered a drawing by Euan Uglow of Patrick Symons himself playing the ‘cello. These works are of great value to me as both artists have been of huge influence on my working processes.

Rehearsal Orchestra 'cellos

While in the Art School library just before Christmas I then discovered some wonderful drawings by Tom Phillips RA made of his son playing the violin. They are beautiful fluid drawings depicting movement, yet they also have a tremendous sense of structure to them. This research then lead me back to the drawings and paintings of Degas. I have always found Degas’ work inspirational, in particular his drawings, early history paintings (eg ‘Young Spartans Exercising’ NG) and his portraits.

I visited the recent exhibition Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement at the Royal Academy. It was the drawings and Degas’ study of the figure in movement that pulled me to the exhibition hoping for some inspiration and ideas in my own research of the depiction of the moving figure.

What I have been experimenting with for some time is finding the appropriate medium to enable me to represent movement. Linear approaches hadn’t been as successful as when using brush and paint. What was interesting when looking at the ballet dancer drawings was the way that many different mediums had been used together. Pastel, watercolour and graphite used together for one, gouache, indian ink and chalk on another. The mark-making was fluid, broad and suggestive and the studies in essence and brush on paper were tremendous. (This is a process where oil is drained from the paint on blotting paper, and the remaining pigment thinned with turpentine). A number of rapidly made studies of the figure had been made on a coloured or tone ground in charcoal, and heightened with white chalk. This is a similar approach to the one I have used when drawing during the Gotterdammerung course with the Rehearsal Orchestra.

Gotterdammerung – Rehearsal Orchestra, October 2011

French Horn, Val

Bass Clarinet, Quentin

Violinist, Jonathan

Wagner Tuba

Young Harpist

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This entry was posted in Edinburgh Festival, Exhibition, London, Musicians, Rehearsal Orchestra, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Musicians – Degas and the problem of picturing movement

  1. Maxine Mathews says:

    Lovely – simple but effective drawings.

  2. kestrelart says:

    I like this a lot. Instruments offer great curves and highlights.

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