Friday, March 23, 2012

Paris: Degas Nudes

Who said of the Folies Bergère girls--"ah zair faces are so sad, mais zair bottoms are so 'appi!" It's the Paris we dreamt of--men, anyway--back before we realized we could get naked and get wasted without every leaving home. There's another kind of French allure on display right now at the Musée_d'Orsay, France's national treasury of Impressionist (and kindred) art. It's Degas and the Nude--room after room of them, plenty of paintings, lots of drawings, a few sculptures. And even though it is (nominally) only one subject, it's one of those shows that lets you consider the whole arc of a career.  For who more than Edgar Degas, when you stop to think of it, ever observed the female body--sitting, standing, lying down, climbing out of the bath, toweling down, whatever--with such patient attention?

Of course you want to say this is art and not porn and you'd be right, but that doesn't mean it is not erotic.  I tried to say something about abstraction, timelessness, essence, like Cézanne. But Mrs. Buce says this misses the point: she said their never was an artist who inhabited the body with more convincing particularity, all the bones and joints in the right place, always the right balance between equipoise and action. I suppose we could both be right in the sense of Hegel's god who had to live through the particularity of the world, else be doomed to an eternity of abstract possibility. Anyway, it is here until July 1. Special ticket although it does come included in those multi-day passes. Definitely worth a side trip, perhaps even worth a transcontinental flight. 

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