Edgar Degas
Beach at low tide (Plage à marée basse) 1869

Drawing a landscape from Memory

Activity duration: 1-2 hours

Explore the artwork

Degas created a series of landscapes while holidaying in Beuzeval, on the Normandy coast in 1869.The pastel drawing Beach at low tide (Plage à marée basse) 1869 was completed during this holiday. Observe the dark rain heavy clouds approaching in the distance. See how Degas has allowed the brown paper to become part of his colour palette and how this is used at the shoreline as well as the foreground of this artwork. Notice the translucent quality of the water. Look at the way Degas has edited the figures and boats to just mere suggestions.

Materials needed

  • Brown craft paper
  • Oil pastels (if possible provide students with a range of tints of the main colours to be used)

Process

  • Look at a range of photographs of landscapes. Also look at landscape paintings by artists other than Degas. These might include the following artworks by Eugène Delacroix, James McNeill Whistler and Fred Williams.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/342992

http://www.gardnermuseum.org/collection/artwork/1st_floor/yellow_room/

https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/3218/

https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/27861/

  • Observe the characteristics of each artwork, such as placement of horizon line, application of paint, tonal qualities of the artworks and gestural marks to suggest form and figures.
  • Using A5 brown craft paper, oil pastels and your memory create your own seascape or landscape pastel drawing. Think about the weather, season and time of day you would like to depict and select pastel colours accordingly.  For example choose bright colours for warm days and cool harmonious colours for dull weather days.
  • Apply the pastels lightly then use your finger to smudge these marks. Try to produce a translucent quality. Layer more colour over the marks you have already made.
  • Use the warmth of the brown paper and allow it to seep through the colours by not applying the pastels too heavily over certain areas. Alternatively leave areas of the brown paper untouched.
  • You may decide to add suggestions of figures, boats or animals in your scene in a manner similar to that of Degas. Use a dark colour to do this.
  • Using the same process outlined above, but a different range of colours to create a new landscape from memory.
  • Compare your landscape with the landscapes created by your classmates. Discuss with each other what makes an interesting landscape drawing.

Visit the exhibition page for Degas: A New Vision to learn more about the artist and exhibition themes, to view an interactive timeline, to see key works from the exhibition, and to download exhibition labels.