At the Milliner by Degas

Degas flipped the bird here.

Degas flipped the bird here.

The VMFA has a lot of beautiful paintings by French Impressionists. This isn’t one of those. It’s a recent acquisition.

You might say this isn’t his best work, but that’s an understatement because he did this annoying painting deliberately. Here’s what the plaque says, quote Degas.
“At this moment it’s fashionable to paint pictures where you can see what time it is, like in a sundial. A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your paintings perfectly plain you end up boring people.”

Let’s talk about plain and boring. The blank face reminds me of the faceless dolls the Amish sell to tourists. I doubt the little Amish girls play with the faceless dolls. With the Amish it’s misguided fear of “graven images” which got removed from the “worship” part of the commandment.

That’s not the problem here. Degas did a half ass painting for the money. He didn’t really want to do this. It looks like resentment to the art world and women. If he painted an expression on the face it would have made the painting interesting, but he chose to paint a flat oval and bore you. Then he made up some bs because there’s no light and shadow in the painting. Do you think he just got lazy? Or do you think he was sending a message?

If a great artist paints a woman’s face a blank that says women are just skirts and hats to him, somehow subhuman.
This is one reason why the art world is fubar. Great artists sell out the art world. Young artists who don’t have the skill to paint a face see this and think they don’t have to try. Then their artistic skill is stunted.

At least I’ll never be faced with the moral dilemma of doing crap art for money because I’m free to turn down work I don’t want. And if I can’t do my best I throw the art away. Does that make me a better artist than Degas?


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