Degas, Updike & The SnapshotWednesday, June 05, 2013
|A Summer's End|
To me the picture of Rebecca in Uxmal is a snap, and he second one is more. It is a revealing portrait of a little girl about to cease being one and reflecting my own idea that the hot summer days were just about over.
Today I am enjoying Just Looking – Essays on Art by John Updike. I found this lovely book at my Kerrisdale Public Library. It was a random find.
Updike writes of Degas:
His most brilliant and characteristic achievement might be described as the patient invention of the snapshot, before the camera itself was technically able to arrest motion and record the poetry of visual accident. Equipped with a collage of sketches and the compositional example of Japanese prints, he began in the early1870s, to make pictures truly novel in their off-center foci, the cropping action of their edges, their unexpected points of vantage and dramatic perspectives, the electric violence of their lighting. The discovery of stage lighting, as a means of organizing a painting, effectuated an intensification of his vision, favoring his virtuoso draftsmanship and reducing color to a matter of highlights. In the Orchestra of the Operá, the orchestra in the foreground is a dark mass of naturalistic portraits – each musician personally identifiable – and the background of actual performance is impressionistically splashed across the top, the dancers dissolved in light and cut off at their necks.
With the digital camera-in-the-phone the snapshot is now supreme. I wonder how many snappers might suspect that Degas was doing it better and without an iPhone?