One very nice thing about having a culture vulture sister-in-law living in New York City is that she is a member of almost every museum; we get to take advantage of her benefits. Among her best perks is the early viewing hour at MOMA. The Museum of Modern Art opens an exhibit exclusively for members and their guests from 9:30 til 10:30 am every morning. No fighting the crowds. Bliss!
Last Monday, Aynsley invited me to join her in seeing Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty. I jumped at the chance. I’ve always loved his work. Degas struck me as a man who would get my devotion to baths; after all, he never painted a woman showering.
What I didn’t realize was that the exhibit focused on his monotypes. Huh? I’m an Art History major; I had no idea what a monotype is. When I entered the first room and saw lots of small black and white pictures along the walls I groaned. I wanted the familiar colorful dancers and ladies grooming that I had studied once upon a time!
When will I learn not to judge so quickly? I soon came to appreciate these little gems. They are charming and wonderfully spontaneous. Which makes sense given the medium. Monotypes are one off works created when the artist applies ink to a smooth non absorbent surface, puts a piece of paper on top and runs it through a press.
Degas became a master of the traditional method then took it farther. He experimented using charcoal instead of ink, paper-to-paper transfers and enhancing his monotypes with pastels.
The introduction to the exhibit explains, “ Degas’s experiments with the essential qualities of monotype –repetition and transformation, mirroring and reversal, tone and tactility- enriched his works in other mediums”. The latter rooms of the show demonstrate this influence on his large oil and pastel works including examples of my beloved dancers and bathers.
A perfect morning!!