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Eye of the beholder

Cover of Little Dancer Aged Fourtee
A review of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece by Camille Laurens

What is art? What attracts or repulses the viewer? The colors, setting, images, tactile feel of textiles/sculpture? Does knowledge of the artist or the subject influence the viewer? All these questions and more are addressed in this surprisingly slim and amazing new book by the French novelist Camille Laurens detailing her fascination of one artist, Edgar Degas, and one work, his now iconic sculpture of a young dancer. 

Starting and ending as a wax sculpture, continually reworked by Degas and not cast until after his death, we know her age from his title for the piece but little more. Laurens' investigations have found some more details, but I think what was most interesting about this book were the questions the author asked herself (and thus her readers) about art and its influences. Is there a final answer? No, but there is certainly reason to rethink my approach to viewing art. And I now want to read her novels.

Aug 18, 2022