Gifford Beal, Profile of woman reading, circa 1910-20, Conté, graphite pencil, and watercolor on wove paper; 9.1 x 15.9 cm (uneven cut). Gift of Gifford Beal Family, courtesy of Kraushaar Galleries, 2011.
I was a writing major in college and have carried this vague, yet weighty, notion that some day, the bolt of lightning will hit me and I’ll be ready to sit down and write my great American novel. When I heard Fran Leibowitz in Public Speaking say, “There are too many books! … When Toni Morrison said ‘write the book you want to read’, she didn’t mean everybody,” I admit that I took this as a bit of relief. But yet, what about the achievement? Like marathon running, many people hold tight to the idea that they have a novel in them, they can reach that goal. That’s what National Novel Writing Month is for. By tomorrow at midnight, tens of thousands of people worldwide hope to have hit the 50,000 word mark, achieving the goal of producing a novel. Will they be published? Will they be in the window at Kramerbooks? Probably not. (Though there is a list of published NaNoWriMo novels.) But they’ll be able to say they did it.
Maybe next year I will try. There is something to be said about the environs of a museum and the creative flow of writing. Azar Nafisi and Julia Alvarez have both said in particular that spending time at the Phillips played a role in their writing process. At the doors of the library, I often find myself engaged with writers seeking a refuge in which to work. Have you participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Does a visit to a museum inspire you to write?
We don’t usually post things that aren’t related to something going on here at the museum. But the New York Review of Books retweeted this simply magical little movie made by bookstore owners in Toronto. No matter how cool your iPad case is, it can’t inspire this kind of magical adoration.
The exhibition catalogue for Degas's Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint published by The Phillips Collection
In the Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint exhibition catalogue, Phillips Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone details Degas’s intricate process behind his late masterpiece:
“Having begun by observing the dancer from the outside, he ends his life’s work internalizing his chosen vehicle of expression to such a point that it becomes the bearer of his own physical and psychological being. In Dancers at the Barre, Degas, the old master and old man, distorts and exaggerates his subject, attenuating their limbs and twisting their bodies into an extreme expression of rigor and dedication of the discipline that made their art a perfect metaphor for his own.”
The catalogue also presents Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele’s fascinating discoveries from the painting’s recent conservation. National Gallery of Art object conservators Shelley Sturman and Daphne Barbour discuss Degas’s sculptures, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon reflects on Degas in the context of ballet today.
Full-color reproductions of all 30 works in the exhibition are accompanied by images of related works, notes from the technical analysis of additional works by Degas in the Phillips Collection, and a detailed chronology of the artist’s life. Read all about the impressionist master’s complex exploration of the figure and devotion to dance.
For the ballet lover on your list, a special “Degas Holiday Package” including a pair of tickets to the exhibition and one copy of the catalogue (hardcover, 148 pages) to take home is now available for a special rate of $60 ($54 for Phillips members) online and at the Phillips admissions desk.