عنوان مقاله [English]
The subject of dual contrasts is one of the most basic concepts in structuralism. The mind of human being behaves in such a way that for understanding phenomena, it classifies every set into dual mutual poles, and this mental action leads eventually to the construction of dual contrasts such as, man and woman, up and down, left and right, dark and light, and so on. From this point of view, these contrasts, also, in the paintings act to strengthen the fundamental aspects of the image. In this regard, this study intends to use an analytical and comparative method, and to examine the structure of Edgar Degas' paintings and to discover the dual contrasts in his works and the visual arrangements underlying the abstract infrastructure of his works, and to receive more specific readings from pictorial relations prevailing in his paintings. And then to answer the question of whether, based on these dual contrasts, it is possible to introduce a definite pictorial system in works that are based solely on the relationship between men and women and the semiotic contrast of gender. Comparison and adaptation done on this collection of the works of Degas showed that within the structural abstraction in these paintings, we can find common dual contrasts. The collection of these contrasts can be referred as a fixed visual pattern in representing the relationship existent between men and women and the expressive tension of the issue.
An important section of Degas' characterizing works is related to the representation of male-female relationships. In this section, we can specifically talk about a duality of men and women in his works of art, which has formed the semantic codes of Degas. The works of this section can be divided into three categories in each of which the visual geometry of the frame is divided into two parts, being about equal to each other, consisting of male and female elements:
Historical and archeological issues
Portrait paintings from men and women
Orchestra and ballet
One of Degas’s methods in creating contrast has been done by separating the elements on both sides of the frame. The paintings “Young Spartans Exercising” and “Suffering City of New Orleans” are two famous examples in this regard. Selecting these subjects, by considering their relation to the structure of the painting that is divided into two local poles, men and women, shows a certain degree of involvement of Degas in dealing with the subject of tension and hostility between the two sexes. Contrary to his predecessors, Degas finally found the inherent expression relating to his visual formulas more important, and changed this approximate static contrast between the two separate groups to a visual structure that was proceeded to his later works. Another preparation of him was using specific frames for restricting the visual elements within the frame of image, which was one of the important affects that his familiarity with Japanese Woodcuts had on him. In different ways, he used this technique to separate women from men in his works. Indeed, it is through this method that he reinforces the geometry of images based on a dual visual contrast between man and woman. Repeated use of this visual preparation and the separation of the positions of body, particularly the male and female half-bodies, throughout all the works in question, expresses the semantic code restricted by a texture in the background of the figures. The contrast existent between left and right is another instance of his effort to construct a semantic system. Checking other works of Degas shows closely that in almost all of these works, the woman and the female parts of the paintings are located on the left side of the frame and the male part is located on the right side. This pattern has been repeated in all of these works, from the first historical paintings of men and women to the later works of him showing couples. This shows his adherence to some symbolic thinking leading to a dual visual contrast in the linguistic structure in the paintings. Another instance is the contrast between up and down. In the works related to the subject of orchestra and ballet, in which he has performed various samples and compositions in vertical frames, he has adapted a distinct contrast related to a feminine and masculine metaphor with a dual contrast related to up and down. This up and down information value, which is particularly emphasized in this collection, is expressing its semantic implications in the image composition. The contrast between darkness and light has been used as a mutual visual expression for describing the subject of the work and various characteristics of it. It has also been used as a metaphorical element in line with more influencing in many paintings. Degas, during his special use of the contrast part of this concept and also its symbolic expression mostly being achieved by the colors of black and white, has given more contrast and visual confrontation to this subject in the representation of the male and female bodies. We may say that the thematic duality of men and women has been repeated by a similar structure in these works because of the way in which the elements and visual preparations are divided, such that we can see a clear visual system in these works. The aim of this study is to compare these works in order to identify the visual dual contrasts basing on the thematic dual bed of woman/man, and on the basis of the analysis of these infrastructures, acquiring a more accurate stylistic and content reading of the thinking system of the painter about men and women. In the first category (including his early historical works), by decisive separating of the two groups of men and women on the right and left respectively, he has formed a dual contrast between left and right, with the male part on the right and the female part on the left. In the second category (including male and female portrait paintings), with more precise visual preparations in addition to the previous dual contrast, he has also used the dual contrast of darkness and light in accordance with the clothing of the male and female figures. In the third category (that includes the subject of orchestra and ballet), just as he has used the semantic contrast of dark and light to divide the space into two parts of male and female, he has also formed another dual contrast at up and down of the frame. Given these common visual contrasts in the composition of these works, we can say that the object of man and woman and particularly the semantic tension between these two sexes, not only in terms of theme, but also visually, is the most basic abstract infrastructure of his works. The subject of these dual contrasts, not only is a visual solution to organize the composition, but also is somehow the reflection of the mental conflict of the painter with his living conditions and the manner he is thinking about the issue of marriage and the conflicts occurred between men and women. This conflict has become a confrontational structure of men and women through the bipolar division of the frame and in the contrast of darkness and light.
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URL1. https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Degas (access date: 22/12/2021)