Art documentary shows Degas drive for perfection

Degas: Passion for Perfection.
Degas: Passion for Perfection.

IT is one thing to know an artist only through their output, particularly when that artist has long departed the easel.

It is quite another to start to know the person behind the work, their craft, their struggles.

Exhibition on Screen does a great service in bringing art to life through a visual rendering of art and commentary around it; it sure beats some of those art-speak catalogues and brochures with their impenetrable linguistics.

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Degas: Passion for Perfection.

Degas: Passion for Perfection keeps up the standard set in this Exhibition series, with a sumptuous and informative look at the French master Edgar Degas (1834-1917).

The basis of the film is an exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where the UK’s most extensive Degas collection is held, venturing to Paris and Italy, where Degas learnt his craft.

Degas’ work stands out among a great era for European art, so appreciating the perfectionism that comes to light here demonstrates the relationship between toil and beauty.

Degas: Passion for Perfection.

The artist himself always thought of his work as in process, even to the extent of retrieving his work from buyers so he could tweak some more.

Less known are his statuettes made from wax, clay and plasticine; beautiful objects that he would not allow to be made into metal.

After he died, more than 150 pieces of sculpture were found in his studio, with The Fitzwilliam Museum the only establishment in the UK to have any of these rare and fragile works.

Series 6 of Exhibition on Screen includes the likes of Gauguin, The Prado Museum, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso, hopefully delivering a similar standard of artistic integrity and sheer enthusiasm for those who gave so much to render the world on their own artistic terms.

Degas: Passion for Perfection.

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THE ESSENTIALS

Degas: Passion for Perfection

Directed by: David Bickerstaff

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

4 stars

In cinemas: Q&A May 11, June 8, 9, 12