Tag Archives: Degas

Friday I love: Musing on the representation of Time in Art


Seeing this lovely photograph by Laura, a 18 year old photographer from Cambridge, UK , made me think of the chalange to represent the passage of Time  in the arts.

Since ancient times painters and sculptors wished to convey visually stories from  mythology, the bible and history. In their attempt to capture an extended story, these artists found several ways to represent events that have unfolded over time.

One of the ways was to build their story through sequential separate frames depicting a chronology of events.


Above the 12 tasks of Hercules


Michael Angelo’s Creation series from the Sistine chapel.

Some artists chose not to represent time by dividing it into distinct sections of   the work but  rather used the same space to tell different stories which had taken place in different times.7philipo

In Philipo lipi’s “Madonna and Child” above, a few scenes are depicted from different periods of Maria and her parents lives.

Anther method to convey time was to ‘freeze’ the dramatic moment of the story, implying the before and after, as in Rembrandt’s  “The Binding” below..


Time passing is also conveyed through representation of movement in space:



Degas (above), Marcel Duchamp (right)

And of course, Dali and the Surrealists used icons and symbols for Time , as here a clock


Coming back to the contemporary photographic image that attracted  my attention and made me think of new, modern ways to convey the passing of time:


The girl in the photo is present in the here and now (of the photographic moment), while the mirror she  holds  ‘reflects’  the space previously unoccupied by her and a therefore a time when she was elsewhere i.e hinting at her temporal absence, before she came to pose for the photographer or after she left the scene.

Very intriguing, don’t you think?