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

Mom’s Eye View

This is the third in a series of posts about this year’s attendance record-breaking annual free family festival, this time from a parent’s point of view. Jessica is Mom to Sophia, Very Young Dancer and niece-by-choice of Rachel Goldberg. Read the first and second installments of the series. 

Photo of Jessica's family creating Jasper Johns-inspired prints in the art-making workshop

Making prints with Sophia while her dad, brother, and Rachel look on. Photo: James R. Brantley

It was a great day for sure, even from the very start. I got everyone up bright and early to beat the crowds for Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days at the Phillips–my 2 1/2 year old Sophia, 10 month old Edward, and husband who had just returned from traveling all week. I didn’t have high hopes for the day, but I was optimistic. As excited as I was to experience the instrument petting zoo and make art with my lovely daughter, I was also beside myself in anticipation of showing Sophia the Rothko Room.

A print created by Sophia in the art-making workshop

Sophia's print

As it turned out, she was curious about the instruments but not too happy about the loud noises, unlike Edward who couldn’t get enough. The printmaking activity was fantastic for Sophia; she could have stayed there all day (and, frankly, I could have too). We didn’t let Edward anywhere near the paint–I don’t think even The Phillips Collection is ready for such a young Jackson Pollock.

After feeling a bit guilty for using so many art supplies, we moved on to what Sophia most wanted to see–Degas’s Dancers at the Barre. When she saw the large painting almost at her eye level, I could see she wanted to give it a running hug. I grabbed her (along with my heart, that fell out of my chest at the sight of her enthusiasm), and we admired the painting from afar. Needless to say Sophia returned to that painting several times.

Saving my favorite for last, we visited the Rothko Room. Sophia did not quite share my awestruck reaction; instead she asked many times, “What’s that?”

It is a spectacular day when you can share the experience of art with your children. The questions never get tiresome and never run out.

Jessica, Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days Guest and Mom

A Very Young Dancer at Family Fun Days

This is the second in a series of posts by Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg about this year’s attendance record-breaking annual free family festival. Read the first installment here.

En route to the Degas with Sophia. Photo: James R. Brantley

En route to the Degas with Sophia. Photo: James R. Brantley

On Saturday, June 2, the first day of Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days, my two and half-year old friend (niece-by-choice) Sophia came to participate in the fun at the museum. All of a sudden and completely out of nowhere about six months ago, Sophia became fascinated with ballet. Her parents first course of action was to enroll her in classes. My first course of action was to take her to the National Gallery of Art to visit the Degas sculptures of the Little Dancer. Sophia wore her pink tutu and ballet shoes for the occasion and danced around the sculptures. She has since become obsessed (seriously, she reads it at least three times a day) with this book, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I asked her what she wanted to do at the museum and she replied, “I want to see the Degas.” Two Degas paintings are currently hanging on the second floor of the Goh Annex, and Sophia dragged me up the stairs and oooohhed and ahhhed at both of them. She even asked me to pick her up (quite unusual for this very independent child) so she could see them more closely.

Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs