Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, French, 1834-1917
Modeled 1879-81, cast 1919-21
Bronze with gauze tutu and silk ribbon, on wooden base

When Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was first exhibited at the 1881 Impressionist exhibition—modeled in wax, with a real tutu and real hair—reaction was mixed. The figure’s awkward limbs and inscrutable expression seemed at odds with the traditional image of the elegant ballerina. Some critics called the sculpture “hideously ugly,” while others applauded its realism. This bronze was cast from the wax original after Degas’s death.

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Is art criticism a type of aggression?

If so, where is the line between constructive criticism and hurtful criticism?

The ballerina in this sculpture does not look happy or relaxed. Is her discomfort justified for the sake of the art?

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