Art: The Artificial Heart

To the average spectator, Swan Lake seems a sprightly cavalcade of carefree ballerinas twirling effortlessly in tutus. Only audiences in the front rows and the impresario in the wings can hear the thump of toe on board, see the straining muscles and the sweat trickling down the dancers' necks. The same disparity exists between the popular concept of ballet's greatest portraitist, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, as an easygoing sentimentalist and the historical fact:

Degas was a merciless misogynist and a maddening perfectionist.

What appealed to him was less the femininity of his ballet dancers than...

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