TMA is exclusive venue for ‘all Degas, all ballet’ exhibition that features major national and international loans
From a 14-year-old Parisian girl made famous by a great Impressionist artist to a 10-year-old Toledoan more famous for women’s rights than dance, the Toledo Museum of Art’s fall exhibition Degas and the Dance celebrates the appeal and impact of ballet both artistically and on the local stage.
In 1928 the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) made its first acquisition with endowed funds from its founder, Edward Drummond Libbey. It was a vibrant pastel of ballerinas by French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas (1834–1917). Thirteen years later, the Museum hosted the Toledo Ballet’s presentation of the first excerpts of the “Nutcracker” by an American dance company in the United States. This year the Toledo Ballet marks the 75th anniversary of having the oldest continuously running annual “Nutcracker” in the country. These historical events inspired the Museum to organize Degas and the Dance, an exhibition featuring iconic works by the artist from TMA’s renowned collection alongside major loans from the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Art and Phillips Collection, both in Washington, D.C.
The exhibition will be on view at the Toledo Museum of Art, the organizer and exclusive venue, from Oct. 15, 2015, through Jan. 10, 2016. Admission is free.
“This very special exhibition provides the Museum with the wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the most beloved dance imagery ever created and in the process to underscore the important heritage of Degas at the Museum and the rich legacy of 75 years of the ‘Nutcracker’ in Toledo,” said Lawrence W. Nichols, William Hutton Senior Curator of European and American Painting and Sculpture before 1900.
Degas was a frequent visitor and visible presence at the Paris Opéra – its rehearsal rooms, backstage spaces and auditorium – and his distinctive cropping and unflinching, unglamorous representations of ballerinas at work helped to cement his reputation as an artist.
Degas and the Dance centers on six superb sculptures by the artist, including the Clark’s widely admired Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. Originally modeled in wax in 1880-81, the 38-inch tall figure was cast in bronze in 1919-21 and depicts Marie van Goethem, a student in the ballet school of the Paris Opéra. Four additional bronzes of individual dancers in ballet positions from the Clark and TMA’s own Study for Little Dancer of Fourteen Years will also be on view. Rounding out the exhibition will be several paintings of dancers in backstage classrooms, including La Répétition au foyer de la danse (1870-ca. 1872) from the Phillips Collection and La classe de danse (begun 1873; completed 1875-76) from the Musée d’Orsay, as well as TMA’s two pastels, The Dancers (ca. 1899) and The Rehearsal Room (ca. 1905).
“It is only natural that the Toledo Museum of Art would organize an exhibition dedicated to Degas and the dance given our history with the artist and the Toledo Ballet,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. “Our sincere thanks to the distinguished lenders to the exhibition for their generosity in sharing their treasures with our community.”
In an adjacent gallery, the Museum plans to install an actual dance studio, with ballet barre, dance floor and mirrors, where students from the Toledo Ballet will periodically rehearse for a performance on Jan. 3, 2016, that brings to life one of Degas’s paintings on TMA’s historic Peristyle stage. The dance studio will allow visitors both to consider Degas’s ballet subjects in close proximity to live dancers in training and to practice ballet themselves in the context of the Museum. Dancers in the studio will also serve as models for drawing classes to be held in nearby areas of the Museum.
Another section of the exhibition will be devoted to archival material and costumes from the Toledo Ballet’s decades of “Nutcracker” productions. Among these historical gems is a photograph of 10-year-old Toledo native Gloria Steinem in a tutu.
Founded in 1939, the Toledo Ballet has been a leader in training generations of dancers. It began performing portions of the ‘Nutcracker’ in 1941 and this year celebrates 75 years of continuous annual productions of the ballet, the longest running in the country. This spring, Toledo Ballet founder and artistic director emerita Marie Bollinger Vogt was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio.
Degas and the Dance is sponsored in part by Christie’s. Additional funding for the exhibition is provided by members of the Toledo Museum of Art and through the sustainability grant program of the Ohio Arts Council. Admission to the Museum is free. For more information, visit toledomuseum.org.