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Simplification in the Paintings of Koryusai, Edgar Degas and Sargent

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These three artists utilized the human body as a vessel, leaving out unnecessary information by simplifying form, color and light. Coming from different movements and cultures such as Impressionism, American Renaissance and also Japanese ukiyo-e print designing. Also using different techniques like painting, inking, sketching and woodblock printing. These three artists expressed a bigger idea in their work through simplistic storytelling, leaving us curious as to how the story would unfold.

Resonating with a quote from Edgar Degas “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” .The set of works show a strong sense of movement through gesture in the pose of the characters. Also in the environment you can sense movement in the brush strokes laid down. The strong directionality of the brush strokes also gave movement and liveliness to the image. These artists made the choice to push the gesture of the characters as opposed to just merely capturing what the saw. The artist made the choice to paint the characters at the point of their movement that creates tension, as if they are just about to make a big gesture in their dance routine. Koryusai’s work the child is winding back the arms just about ready to make his next move. In Sargent’s the dancer’s arms are whipped forward, hands all tensed up as if she just finished the first step and just about the swing the arms to make the next. And finally in Degas’s work the dancers look like they have just wound up ready to spin. These moments captured by the artists really help enforce the feeling of movement and gesture in their works. In doing so the tension created leaves the viewer in anticipation on the subject’s next move.

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The background of these three paintings are highly stylized. The artist made the choice to leave out elements like trees walls or people and leave them up to abstraction all with the intent of creating a focus on their main subject matter. All the other elements in the Image is to enhance and support their focal point. In Koryusai’s work the clouds and grass in the background and just indicated enough to get the sense of there is character is standing. In Sargent’s work how the characters in the background blend into one another along with the deep black shadows. These elements all come together to form a simple shape. Just enough to show us what is going on in this story. And again to bring the focus to the dancer in the foreground. And last but not least in Degas’s work. How the background and skirt is also highly simplified to create focus on the gesture of his subjects. These three paintings employ different methods to achieve simplicity but all to the same goal of creating an image that would show the viewer what the artist deemed important. A simplified color pallet is also employed to create simplicity in their work. Using a limited color pallet and complimentary colors to create interest. Using only the essentials in their work as to not distract the viewer from the story they want to tell. Koryusai used a simple complementary color scheme using red and green creating a vibrant color pallet, Degas utilizes a broken color technique with blue and orange, dotting individual specs of color and allowing our eyes to do the mixing. And Sargent using a muted pallet of blue and orange, to bring emphasis on the colors he wants to viewer to experience.

All three have the same goal of creating an impactful image through simplification, creating a united and pleasing pallet. These three artists have deliberately chosen to simplify their subject’s form, gesture and colors enforcing their image. Through this simplification, they have effectively created an image they want us to experience.


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