Degas and Coding: More in Common than You’d Think

(left to right) Infrared of Degas's Dancers at the Barre revealing multiple leg positions; new project screen for iPhone apps; Edgar Degas, Dancers at the Barre, Degas, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar, Dancers at the Barre, early 1880s-c. 1900. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 38 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1944.

(left to right) Infrared of Degas's Dancers at the Barre revealing multiple leg positions; new project screen for iPhone apps; Edgar Degas, Dancers at the Barre, Degas, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar, Dancers at the Barre, early 1880s-c. 1900. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 38 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1944.

After attending a spotlight tour that featured Degas’s Dancers at the Barre, my app developer friend and I had an interesting conversation. The gallery educator had pointed out a ghostlike leg peeking through the paint and referred to at least eight different legs the conservator found beneath the surface of the picture using infrared reflectography. As I’ve  studied art for years, this revelation was no surprise to me, but my friend’s perspective was a refreshing insight on the connection between the two seemingly dissimilar fields of art and software design:

“Designing software is so much more than just playing on my computer. It’s my own version of art. When I open up a new project for an iPhone app, a blank white screen appears. This small detail (whether or not it was intended) makes me feel just like an artist would feel buying a new canvas. The possibilities are endless. I can create absolutely anything on that screen, and people will interact with it and take from it a thousand different things” –S. Abousalbi

In a way, the freedom that Degas must have felt in drawing multiple legs to find the perfect line relates to the design process for my friend as he crafts functionality and usability in his apps. This parallel is one of the reasons I will always love art–everyone connects to it differently and, even when I thought I’d taken everything from this piece that I could, looking at it through a programmer’s eyes showed me something completely new.

Katherine Kunze, Marketing Intern

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