Making Connections

Amelie    Oil on Linen, 18 x 24 inches

This work recently won a nice award for oil painting at the Ridgewood Art Institute (New Jersey).   A painting must stand on its own without the artist having to explain it, but how this one came into being is interesting to me, maybe you’ll find it interesting, too.


Several years ago I was commissioned to do a double portrait of Katie and her older sister.  They arrived at the photo session in undershirts, blouses, sweaters, and jackets.  As the shoot went on I began thinking that I might like to paint the girls in matching dresses with a lower neckline, so I got some Degasshots with necks and shoulders exposed.  Whenever I stumbled on these photos in the intervening years, the photo of Katie kept prodding me to some other image I couldn’t remember for the life of me.  Then last Fall I got it: her pose was similar to the pose in Degas’ sculpture ‘Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Anz’. Note  in the Degas how the model thrusts her head out with shoulders thrown back, quite similar to Katie’s pose.  Also unusual is that the young dancer (cast in bronze) is fitted with an actual tutu below the waist, which explains why a tutu ended up hanging on the rear wall of the painting.  The various fabrics in the costume were fun to paint, and I especially enjoy the small detail of the flower ornament on the tutu front being repeated in Katie’s barrette.

I decided the title had to sound French in a nod to Degas.

3 thoughts on “Making Connections

  1. Yvonne

    Joe, your connection to Degas’ work brought to mind other artists in music, more specifically Variations on a Theme of Paganini…. the deconstruction/reconstruction of that man’s work.

    Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Anz must have truly resonated with you to ultimately arrive at your own variation named “Amelie”.


    1. jsundwall Post author

      I’m not familiar with the Paganini you mention (maybe you could hum a few bars?), but on a similar note I remember thinking that I should re-familiarize myself with Moussorsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, which I played when I was in the high school orchestra. I forget which exhibition it was, but both paintings and drawings figured in the composition, a series of musical vignettes, or impressions. The idea would be to re-interpret the music back in the direction of 2-dimensional art with the assistance of the painting titles. Stay tuned!



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