Degas and the Liittle Dancer
by Laurence Anholt
by Laurence Anholt
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French painter and sculptor known for his representations of horses and dancers.
This book focuses mainly on Marie van Goethen, the subject of Degas's Little Dancer sculpture. In the voice of a museum curator, it tells how Marie, who longed to dance in a Christmas ballet, agreed to pose for Degas in order to raise money to continue on with her ballet lessons. Through Marie's story, the reader catches little glimpses into the personality of Degas himself.
About the Illustrations
My favorite thing about the pictures is that they use a photograph of the Little Dancer statue, and never an artist's rendering. As this work of art is at the heart of the narrative, it was wise to allow the reader to actually see it. The illustrations are also useful because the story itself jumps back and forth in time. In the present day, a museum curator tells a gathering crowd the story of Marie, and in the past, Marie's interaction with Degas unfolds. Anholt does not try to imitate Degas (a wise decision, as this would be impossible), but his style does hint at Degas's work, which gives the book a suitable mood.
The author's note is the only place in this book which gives straightforward information about Degas. This is not a problem, since the focus is on one very specific piece of artwork and its backstory, but it does mean that this biography probably would not meet most book report requirements. The author's note is also printed on the back cover, which means many libraries will cover it over with the jacket flap, and possibly even with glue. (I was lucky to be able to peel the jacket away to read it in my library copy, but it was still annoying.)
I can see myself sharing this book with my children as we begin to study art history in our homeschool a few years down the road. It's also a must-read for families who might be going to the Louvre and will have an opportunity to see The Little Dancer. While not a comprehensive biography of its subject, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible story about Degas that serves as an excellent introduction to his art.