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“Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor” at the Norton Simon- a MUST SEE exhibit

Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor

A MUST SEE exhibit at the Norton Simon


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Stepping into the Norton Simon Museum for a new exhibition, the foresight of collector Norton Simon never ceases to impress me. Last year, perusing the sea of Picassos for the States of Mind exhibition, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to delve into myriad iterations of Picassos work and thereby his creative process due to the deep collection acquired by Norton Simon. This month’s exhibition Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor once again felt like a seemingly boundless collection of a single artist, this time Edgar Degas.  With the exception of one loan by the Getty Museum, Norton Simon’s massive collection of Degas’ sculpture, drawing, and painting comprised the entire exhibition. A deep collection affords a viewer a rich window into the of the art of creation. Moreover, the curation by Emily Talbot juxtaposed Degas’ bronze modèles, painting, and drawing in an innovative manner that allows museum goers to see familiar works in a new light.

This exhibition coincides with two anniversaries: the centenary of Degas’ death as well as a 40-year commemoration of the purchase of the bronze modèles by Simon. Today, the Norton Simon Museum retains 102 works by Degas, three-fourths of which are sculpture. Most intriguing about this exhibit were the juxtapositions between sculpture and painting, which opens one’s eyes to illuminating perspectives on Degas’ artistic process. The exhibit unfolds thematically, down to the vivid colors of the walls chosen by Talbot: red in the first gallery, symbolizing energy and dynamism, followed by the calming green hue of repose in the second gallery where there are sculptures depicted receiving massages and relaxing in baths.

DO NOT MISS these works during your visit:

1.         Degas’ copy of Rape of the Sabines juxtaposed with his sculpture


Degas got his start copying masterworks including Poussin’s Rape of the Sabines. This work serves as a point of comparison between painting and sculpture. The creative juxtaposition allows a viewer to see Degas’ dynamic energy and lines both on the canvas and in the adjacent sculpture.

Juxtaposed with Rape of Sabines

It is also a visual dialogue: violence against women in the Sabine narrative and the powerful response in sculpture underscoring the exuberant power of the female body.

Above: The Rape of the Sabines (after Nicolas Poussin) c. 1861-1862Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas © Norton Simon Art Foundation 

(Sculpture details below)





2.         Dancers in Pink

D in Pink

Curator Emily Talbot’s original perspective made me look at this painting in a radically new way. Instead of viewing the subject as two dancers, Talbot suggested that the painting represented a single dancer viewed in two parts. This idea corresponds with Degas’ intense focus on understanding the body in its three dimensional form.

Dancers in Pink Edgar Degas. c. 1886 Pastel on paper, mounted on cardboard. 28-1/2 x 15-1/4 in. F.1969.05.1.P © The Norton Simon Foundation






3.         Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen

little dancer aged 14Perhaps the most shocking detail I learned when walking through the exhibit was that in the immense sea of beautiful sculpture, only one was exhibited during Degas’ lifetime: Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. With its avant-garde use of real materials, such as human hair and real slippers, the Little Dancer caused an uproar at an 1881 Impressionist exhibition. Due to the horrendous reviews, Degas never again exhibited sculpture in public. Yet, in, the privacy of his studio close friends and visitors could see the world of horses, dancers, and bathers that was closed off to the public. The exhibit enfolds us into the private creative world of Degas.

Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, Edgar Degas; Modeled 1878–81; cast after 1918 Painted bronze with cotton and silk on a wooden base; 37-5/8 x 13-3/16 x 9-15/16 in. M.1977.02.70.S © Norton Simon Art Foundation


 4   Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opéra

Dancers Rotunda

If you observe this painting closely you will see Degas’ fingerprints on the canvas. To me, this painting represents the tactile nature of painting, a delightfully surprising connection with the sculptural works in the exhibit.

Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opéra. Edgar Degas. 1894 Oil on Canvas  34-7/8 x 37-3/4 in. M.1968.25.P  © Norton Simon Art Foundation


5   A placard with a declaration by Degas to his dealer, Ambroise Vollard

After seeing a wax sculpture of a dancer go through 20 iterations, Vollard was stunned to see it one day as a ball of wax. Degas retorted, “You think above all of what it was worth, Vollard, but if you had given me a hatful of diamonds my happiness would not have equalled that which I derived from demolishing [the figure] for the pleasure of starting over.”

That quotation encapsulates the exhibit: as museum goers we are privy to an artist for whom the act of creating was sublime.

Sculptures adjacent to Rape of the Sabines: 

Fourth position front, on the left leg. Edgar Degas Modeled c. 1885-90. Cast1919-21. Bronze. Modeled c. 1885-90; cast 1919-21 . Copper alloy base: 6-3/8 x 5-1/4 in. M.1977.02.08.S  © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Spanish Dance.  Edgar Degas Modeled 1880’s, cast, 1919-21. Copper alloy base: 3-7/8 x 6-13/16 in. M.1977.02.15.S  © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Grande Arabesque, Edgar Degas. Modeled 1885-90; cast 1919-21  Copper alloy base: 7-3/8 x 13-9/16 in. © Norton Simon Art Foundation

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Wise Man: George Bernard Shaw

You use a glass mirror to see your face;

 You use works of art to see your soul.”  

- George Bernard Shaw















Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome

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Dazzling Lights on Travertine at the Getty Center

Celebration     at the Getty Center in honor of Pacific Standard Time L.A/ L.A

Photography © 2017 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

 dazzling lights on Travertine…

Getty Party 1

Getty Party 2Getty Party 3Getty Party 4



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For a Halloween Treat- Karl Richter performs J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

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Two MUST SEE EXHIBITS: “Giovanni Bellini” and “Sacred Landscapes” at the Getty Center


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Imagine being able to teleport yourself through time and space to imagine life as a spiritual Venetian noble in the 15th Century. Or as a believer in 15th Century Bruges.

Two intriguing exhibits at the Getty Center allow museum goers to take those journeys.

Firstly, Giovanni Bellini: Landscapes of Faith in Renaissance Venice offers insight into the work of a Venetian master.

What is astounding about this exhibit is that it is the first monographic exhibition in America devoted to Giovanni Bellini. This gifted and prolific artist, who when he was already in his seventies, was praised by Albrecht Durer as “still the best in the art of painting” despite the fact that Titian and Giorgione were already on the scene.

In one room, viewers are fortunate to be able to view Bellini masterpieces loaned from museums and private collections in Paris, Florence, Venice, and around the globe.

The Bellini exhibit underscores the vitality of an Encyclopedic Museum like the Getty Center. Viewers who may not be able to procure plane tickets to Venice, Florence, and Paris at the drop of a hat now have the opportunity to obtain an instant artistic passport to these places by virtue of this exhibit.

The passport that one obtains is not only geographical, but also allows one to understand the historical context.

For instance, one learns that the paintings in the Bellini exhibit were meant for private devotion for  a group of Venetian nobles. These collectors were influenced by the Italian Renaissance humanist Petrarch, whose treatise “De Vita Solitaria” contrasted the corrupting consequences of doing business in an urban center with the restorative process of meditating in solitude. Many patricians recognized the importance of taking a step away from their busy lives to meditate.

Davide Gasparotto, who expertly curated this beautiful exhibit, describes the Bellini paintings as “meditational poems” of real and ideal landscapes.

Bellini often painted St. Jerome, a figure who conflated two traditions: the hermit in the desert and the scholar. For example, in Bellini’s 1485 painting “St. Jerome Reading In The Countryside,” St. Jerome is removed from the sinful city which is featured in the top half of the painting. The perspective shows St. Jerome centrally seated in a remote, desert-like space, linking him with other hermetic Biblical figures like St. Francis and John the Baptist. (There are several paintings of St. Jerome in the exhibit- don’t miss them!)

St. Jerome

Giovanni Bellini

Saint Jerome Reading In The Wilderness.

(Venice ca 1435-1516)

ca 1485. London, National Gallery,

Image Courtesy of the Getty Center.

Perspective also plays a key role in Bellini’s “Crucifixion With the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist.” Bellini painted the cross on a threshold between the painting itself and the viewer, connecting this image to the audience in a impactful and uniquely visceral way.



Bellini Crucifixion

Giovanni Bellini.

Crucifixion With the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist. 1465, panel.

Image Courtesy of the Getty Center.

These unusual perspectives as well as the paintings’ relatively small size allows us to imagine ourselves in the room of a 15th Century Venetian patrician. Unlike their Florentine counterparts, the majority of Venetian patricians did not have chapels in their residences, so Bellini’s paintings would have hung in their rooms for private devotion.

Just as the Bellini exhibit takes us on a trip to 15th Century Venice, a second complementary exhibit, Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts” takes us on a journey through France, Belgium, Germany, England, and Italy.

This exhibit, beautifully curated by Bryan C. Keene and Alexandra Kaczenski seamlessly connects with the Bellini exhibit on a thematic and visual level. For instance, the image of St. Jerome appears in both. Both exhibits feature nature as spiritual mecca, a theme that harkens back to the Garden of Eden, in which a verdant space epitomizes paradise.

But “Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts” takes visual meditation a step further.

Many of these books of prayer were used by those saying the rosary.  So the second exhibit connects us to the active pilgrim, one who holds the devotional manuscript contemplating blooming roses while grasping rosary beads in one’s fingers. These books connect the visual with the tactile.

What is even more illuminating about this exhibit is uncovering the meaning behind the vibrant images of flowers embedded in the margins of the texts- rich floral details which provide clues as to scientific philosophies at the time.

For instance, in the image of The Visitation by the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth in which they mutually share their blessed news of being with child. Bordering the image and text of this joyous scene are depictions of pansies, strawberries, columbines, and forget-me-nots. Not coincidentally, these plants were used during this era as a form of pain medication for the pangs of childbirth. The images of fruit have a double meaning. In the “Hail Mary” prayer, Jesus is referred to as “the fruit” of Mary’s womb. By carefully observing these exquisite pages, one can learn much about both the religious and scientific attitudes of the time.


The Visitation.

Bruges, Belgium ca 1480-85

 Master of the Dresden Prayer Book or workshop

Crohin-La Fontaine, Hours. 1

3.3 X 9.4 cm. MS 23 (86) ML. 606) fols. 71v-72.

Image Courtesy of Getty Center. 

Each page of these illuminated manuscripts offers a teachable lesson about botany, religion, or medicine, and often all three simultaneously. Most importantly, they capture a moment in time.

Both of these exhibits, one devoted to a Venetian master and the other a journey to arboreal splendor are MUST-SEES. 

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A truly Cultural Cocktail: The Bellini!


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

And now, for a delicious libation that epitomizes the Cultural Cocktail!

Toast Bellini!

You can share this trivia the next time you are at a cocktail party and become the toast of the fete!

Did you know that the Bellini cocktail was named after the Venetian Renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini?

The history of this popular drink harkens back to Harry’s Bar in Venice.  A Who’s Who of artistic luminaries frequented this bar including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Arturo Toscanini, Peggy Guggenheim, and Alfred Hitchcock.

In 1948, Harry’s Bar owner Giuseppe Cipriani created a concoction blending peach puree and Prosecco. He named the refreshing cocktail a “Bellini,” after the sumptuous peach hue on the toga of a saint painted by Giovanni Bellini.

This exquisite painting (Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and a Female Saint in a Landscape) once hung at Venice’s Gallerie dell’ Accademia but is now on view at the Getty Center.

Perhaps this is the exact painting that inspired Mr. Cipriani?

Look at the detail of the shiny peach colored sash of the saint.

Full Bellini paintingGo see the painting for yourself at the Getty Center.

  • Tune in to Cultural Cocktail Hour for more details on two enlightening new exhibits at the Getty Center that just opened on October 10th: Giovanni Bellini: Landscapes of Faith in Renaissance Venice and Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts.



Detail bellini saint

Image and detail from: Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and a Female Saint in a Landscape. Giovanni Bellini (Venice, ca-1435-1516). Ca 1501, panel, 54 X 76 cm. Venice, Gallerie dellAccademia, inv. No 881 (Moschini Marconi). Image Courtesy of Getty Center. 


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Classical Music for healing

Hopeful music during these dark days of violence and tragedy.

Thank you to Brian Lauritzen – KUSC for sharing this inspiring piece of music on his program.

The St. Olaf Choir, Anton Armstrong, Conductor, performs “Even When He Is Silent” by Kim André Arnesen.

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10+ Facts About Marc Chagall

The #1 Search Term on Cultural Cocktail Hour has consistently been—- Marc Chagall!!

To reward my faithful readers for their curiosity, here are


1. Real Name: Moyshe Segal

2. Birthplace: Vitebsk, Russian empire

3. Artistic Style: Chagall invented his own style, blending Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, and Expressionism with images from Jewish folklore and legend.

4. Family Background

Chagall was born into a Hassidic Jewish family living in Russia.

His father, Zakhar, assisted a herring merchant;

His mother, Feiga Ita, ran a small shop.

5.  Wife

Bella Rosenfeld:

a cultured woman with a passion for theatre, painting, and poetry

6. Paris

“My art needed Paris, like a tree needs water.”- Chagall

When Moyshe Segal arrived in Paris he changed his name to Marc Chagall. The resourceful painter did not let his lack of money stop him. He painted on canvases made from curtains and even his own shirts.

7.  Stained Glass Windows.

In addition to painting, Chagall also created stained glass windows.

“Stained Glass Windows represent

the transparent partition

between my heart

and the heart of the world”-


Chagall’s magnificent stained glass can be found in France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, and the United States.

8. Ballet

Chagall created designs, sets, and costumes for New York City Ballet Theatre, including:

Tchaikovsky’s Aleko

and Stravinsky’s Firebird

9.  Circus:

Another image that intrigued Chagall was the circus. As a child growing up in Russia, he had observed many carnival-like fetes for the Jewish festival of Purim. In Paris, Chagall attended the Cirque d’Hiver at the behest of Ambroise Vollard,  the prominent art dealer.

10. Judaism

Chagall often infused his work with mystical Jewish symbols.

Unfortunately, the Nazi Regime classified his work as degenerate, and Chagall eventually sought exile in New York.

His painting, Solitude, poignantly and movingly evokes alienation and loss.

-Solitude- by Marc Chagall

11. *BONUS*

Some of the recurring symbols in Chagall’s art include:

Peddlers, Acrobats, Angels, Musicians, Couples, Donkeys, Cows , Fish, Clocks, Violins, Ladders, Flowers, and the Eiffel Tower

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Autumn Cultural Highlight- Pacific Standard Time

Pacific Standard photo 1PACIFIC STANDARD TIME LA/LA is THE Blockbuster cultural experience in LA this Fall and Winter.

Led the GETTY, the massive undertaking explores Latin America and Latino Art in dialogue with Los Angeles.

The scope and scale of this artistic endeavor is staggering. PST LA/LA encompasses:

1100 artists from 45 countries 

More than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, and from San Diego to Santa Barbara

 The themes of Pacific Standard Time include:

  • Pre-Hispanic to Colonial
  • Borders, Diaspora, and Displacement
  • Definitions of Identity
  • From Abstract to Conceptual Art
  • Critiquing Globalism and Modernism
  • Art and Activism
  • Design and Architecture
  • Film, Music, Dance

Cultural Cocktail Hour will be covering individual exhibits this Fall and Winter.

Pacific Standard Time LA/LA  runs from September 2017 through January 2018.

For a full and up-to-date list of all the exhibitions and 100s of events, please see:

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Happy Fall Equinox to my readers!

 ”Give me a spark o’ Nature’s fire,

That’s a’ the learning I desire.”– Robert Burns

California Gold

photographed Thanksgiving weekend 2011 Pasadena, CA

Photography © 2011 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

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