Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor at The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor at The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

This fall, the Norton Simon Museum presents “Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor”. Edgar Degas, renowned for his impressionist paintings, was also a groundbreaking sculptor. He enjoyed capturing female dancers and experimented with unusual angles and ideas around centering.

Degas exhibited only one piece of sculpture during his lifetime, entitled “Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen”. However, in his studio he created hundreds of studies of horses, dancers and bathers, seen only by his close friends and visitors, until a posthumous exhibition in 1918. Degas scholars have agreed that the sculptures were not created as aids to painting. Degas assigned the same importance to sculpture as to drawing: “Drawing is a way of thinking, modeling another”.

Dancer Ready to Dance, the Right Foot Forward, c. 1885
Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
Bronze, No. 57, Modèle cast
Norton Simon Art Foundation

After Degas’s death, his heirs found 150 wax sculptures in his studio, many in disrepair. Foundry owner Adrien Hébriard concluded that 74 of the waxes could be cast in bronze.

This exhibition highlights these 74 models. These small sculptures, or modèles, presented together with the artist’s related pastel drawings and paintings, capture Degas’s fascination with form and movement. “Taking Shape” offers viewers the rare opportunity to experience one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.

On view: November 10, 2017 – April 9, 2018
The Norton Simon Museum is located at 411 Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, California


After the Bath, c. 1890-1893 (dated in error by another hand: 1885)
Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
Pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard
The Norton Simon Foundation

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A native of Los Angeles, Barbara is the France Today Ambassador for L.A. She graduated from UCLA with a BA degree in Political Science, and also received her JD degree from UCLA School of Law. While at UCLA, she spent her junior year in Grenoble, France. From that time on, she has been an avid and passionate Francophile. She has visited almost every region in France, and still pursues French language courses in Los Angeles. She has an apartment in Paris and continues to visit France every year.

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