This page describes how photo was used by Degas as an aid to studying movement.

Edgar Degas
Frieze of Dancers c1893/98

Degas was familiar with the work of Eadweard Muybridge (type Muybridge for Artiste in database). Degas studied Muybridge's precinematic study of movement through serial time-based photographs of horses and humans in motion. 

This frieze borrows from antiquity and modernity.  Ancient Greek and Roman friezes often describe a narrative through space.  Although this picture has no clear "narrative" it uses the "frieze template" of antiquity to define itself as a study of motion through time.  It borrows from modernity (Muybridge) since it is very much like a series  "frozen moments in time" --showing different perspectives of what seems to be the same ballerina bending over to tie her shoes.

Degas himself took pictures of the motion of ballerinas to better understand the way they moved.

Edgar Degas
Woman drying herself c1896-98

This bather drying herself is very similar to a photograph taken by Degas of a model in this pose--found at his studio after his death.  Whether the photograph inspired this piece or whether the photograph was used to study the specific pose (it would be quite difficult for a model to be in that specific contorted position for a very long time)--is still not known.  In any case, photography was used to study these particularly difficult instances of motion.  The photograph may have also enhanced his striking use of value shifts in the painting. This work may, in addition, have been influenced by Japanese artists.

Edgar Degas
Carriage at the Races c1877-80

In this study of jockeys on their horses, Degas borrows from Muybridge's study of horse motion. 

Although Degas uses the theme of horse motion, he contextualizes the scientific study of motion by composing a picture about a common leisure practice of the time: horse racing.  The movement of the horse in the background shows the influence of the Muybridge series--the precise positioning of the animal's legs as he gallops on.

Degas uses his understanding of motion and brings it into the space of leisure/entertainment for the bourgeois Parisians of the time. Degas, did  a whole series of studies of  horses and jockeys at the racetrack.

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