Dancers in bronze: Degas sculptures come to Chile

Degas’ famed “Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer” takes her place in the Bellas Artes Museum in Santiago, alongside 72 other artworks by the French master.


There’s a treat in store for art-lovers this month as sculptures by Edgar Degas, the celebrated French artist, go on show for the very first time in Chile.

The new exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) features 73 bronze sculptures by the Impressionist master, including his well-known figure of the “Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer.”

Entitled “Degas the Sculptor: Impressions of Modern Life”, the exhibition will run until October 30. The US$39 million collection is “one of the most important in South America,” according to Chilean daily La Tercera, and is on loan from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil.

Degas (1834-1917) was a French Impressionist best known for his paintings, especially those of ballet dancers. In fact, the only sculpture he revealed in his lifetime was the waxen “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” which was poorly received by the artistic public.

But, as the Santiago exhibition explains, Degas loved sculpture, believing it was the purest way to reflect nature and movement in art. After his death, his heirs found more than 150 wax sculptures in his studio and had 74 cast in bronze, to be preserved for posterity.

Fast-forward to 2009, with Degas recognized as one of the most important figures in Impressionist art, and that little statue of the ballerina would sell for a record US$19 million, the most valuable of the artist’s works.

She is now, deservedly, the star piece in this simple and thoughtful exhibition at the Bellas Artes Museum, standing alongside bronze figures of bathing women, naked dancers and running horses.

The museum says the exhibit is divided into three perspectives: movement; Degas’s influences and references; and the effect of modernity and technology. More information on these themes, as well as the artwork and Degas himself, can be found on the “Degas in Chile” educational website developed by the museum and its sponsors.

The Bellas Artes Museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:45 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Entrance to the exhibit is included in the general admission price: CLP600 (US$1.30) for adults and CLP300 (US$0.65) for students and seniors, from Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday admission is free for all.