Recently, a letter arrived describing a young girl standing at the barre in her ballet class, while an artist guest of the instructor sketched and gathered painting material.
“I remember thinking how I would have loved to be painting and learning alongside him, rather than be self-consciously fumbling through ballet exercises at the barre,” the letter read. “Later, he held a show and sale of paintings and drawings inspired by his time there. My parents and an older sister bought pencil drawings featuring my little sister. When I asked if there had been any drawings of me, they told me he had painted a large one of me (I believe my back was turned to the viewer but I am not sure of that memory). At any rate, it was much more expensive than the pencil drawings and so I was left… I have often wondered about that painting and hoped I could one day see it, even if only in a photo. Your father wrote the first names of each of the girls he drew on the pencil drawings and maybe mine is identified likewise.”
She ended the letter by telling me her name.
I asked my mother about that period. “He delivered a whole show of ballerinas, even though the gallery had been expecting landscapes,” she said, a smile of recollection spreading into her cheekbones. It was the early 1970s and my parents had just moved to their seaside town. They met Margaret Perry, the owner of her eponymous ballet school, through the young father who had sold my parents their house. His children were aspiring ballerinas. I pictured my dad as he followed an urgency of inspiration, travelling the path of other painters who have explored the timeless subjects of childhood, movement and classical beauty. It was as if he had discovered, in his own new backyard, a life-class in real time. Newness and unique learning often accompany such a diversion of subject and inspiration.
French historian Daniel Halévy wrote that the Palais Garnier of Paris was to Edgar Degas what history was to Delacroix. In the burgeoning age of photography, Degas looked for technical subject matter that spoke to both modern realism and classical subjects and, in so doing, applied his draughtsmanship to the ballet’s fairies and nymphs. “They call me the painter of dancers,” Degas said, “They don’t understand that the dancer has been for me a pretext for painting pretty fabrics and for rendering movement.”
PS: “Muses work all day long and then at night get together and dance.” (Edgar Degas)
Esoterica: Ten years after the ballerina show, my dad was again invited to gather painting material at another local dance school, where I was a young student. A small dancer portrait sketch from that period was recently given by my mother to the parents of one of my classmates, now lifelong friends. This year, my niece Zoë will perform as part of a local production of The Nutcracker. If Dad were here, he would surely return for a moment to painting ballerinas.
“Never forget that the nurturing and preservation of your own muse is job one. Lose it and you may be losing a great deal.” (Robert Genn)
Join award-winning Plein air painter Sharon Rusch Shaver as she conducts her next exciting workshop in the south of France. Van Gogh’s bronze foot-steps dot sidewalks in the exact locations for his paintings in this beautiful city lined with rows of towering chestnut trees. Painting daily in your chosen medium: oil; watercolor; pastel; pen and ink artists as well as photographers will find plenty of inspiration in this city bathed in Mediterranean sunlight. Daily demonstrations and one-on-one help will be provided for those wanting to learn how to speed up and work quickly capturing that fleeting light and color in their paintings and with photos.
Chef prepared gourmet meals are served in the shade of the mulberry trees in the garden of this large comfortable country Farmhouse Maison only a few miles from the city where you will have a well-appointed ensuite room with views of the countryside for your stay. All-inclusive* 9 nights accommodation, transfers, meals, and instruction. Go to: Adventure-Artists.com
I am a painter. I am delighted to be a painter.