Edgar Degas

Social, Cultural and other Influences

  • Degas had visited three major exhibitions in Paris of Japanese prints, this was the first time that Western culture had seen Eastern artwork. This influenced Degas’ use of an asymmetrical composition in this image, the positioning of the focal point off-centre and leaving large areas of space.

  • The invention of photography had a major influence on Degas work. People became used to seeing figures cropped off in unusual ways. In this image we see a cut-off composition of the dancers in the foreground and background where we get a sense of the scene continuing.

  • The invention of photography also made people become used to seeing moving objects as blurred and fuzzy this influenced Degas in his use of softer brushstrokes and subdued colours with less emphasis on detail in this painting.

  • The improvement of technology such as ‘ready-made’ canvases, tubes of paint and the advances in the mode of transport allowed Degas to work on site at the scene of the painting.

  • Degas was heavily influenced by the artist Ingres who was a master of figure drawing.

Anthony Gormley

Social, Cultural and other Influences

  • Gormley spent three years in India and studied Buddhist healing. He says that sculpture can provide a silence and stillness that can make us think of our own existence. This knowledge and interest in Buddhism has influenced this idea in this work.

  • Gormley studied meditation. Meditation is a way of taking control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful and focused, and the meditator becomes more aware. ‘Domain Field’ gives the viewer a sense of peace, the fragile structures, weightlessness, and position makes you stop and think.

  • Gormley studied Anthropology, which is the study of people throughout the world, their history, how they behave, adapt to different environments, communicate and socialise with one another. In ‘Domain Field’ we see how humans respond, behave, interact and communicate with the installation.

  • Gormley was brought up a Catholic and his religious beliefs gave him a strong sense of community. This is why Gormley liked to work in collaboration with the local community, he believes that if the public help build a sculpture they have a sense of ownership which is seen is ‘Domain Field’.

  • Gormley studied Archeology, the study of human activity by recovering and analysing ancient found materials. This often included the discovery of skeletal structures which has an obvious influence on the fragile appearance of Domain Field.

Philippe Starck

Social, Cultural and other Influences

  • Starck was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus – a German school of architecture and design, founded by Walter Gropius. Its philosophy was to use functional design to create a better society; this influence is evident in the lemon squeezer, it performs the same function as traditional lemon squeezers, however with more style.

  • Starck has been inspired by new technology and synthetic materials and he liked the fact that these new materials are a product of human intelligence. The ‘juicy salif’ is made from cast aluminium a new synthetic material which uses easier manufacturing processes and therefore cheaper to produce.

  • Starck was influenced by Art Nouveau, an organic style that flourished between 1890 and 1910. The ‘juicy salif’ lemon squeezer is organic, elegant and modern in shape.

Alvar Aalto

Social, Cultural and other Influences

  • Alvar Aalto was a Finnish designer and was Finland’s most important modern designer. The rugged, dramatic coastline of the Finnish landscape was a recurrent theme in his work. The organic curved bent shape of the Paimio chair was heavily influenced by the shape of the Finnish coastline and the Art Nouveau style of the 20th century.

  • The Paimio chair was inspired by Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe who designed the tubular-steel Wassily Chair. This chair showed new and innovative shapes of bent tubular steel. Aalto wanted to be the first to recreate this effect by using wood.

  • Throughout his life Aalto remained true to the MODERNIST idea of the Arts and Crafts movement that the form of a piece of furniture should relate, first and foremost, to its function. This is evident in the Paimio chair.

  • One of the most important technological advances that Aalto created was the ‘free cantilever design’ part of which is shown in the first Paimio, this was a principle that was only previously applied to metal furniture.

  • Aalto was also influenced and conscious of environmental issues, he made sure that two birch trees are planted for every one used in the production of his furniture, his furniture is also biodegradable as is with the Paimio chair.


Part (b) Select one artist from part (a).

Explain the impact of social, cultural and/or other influences on any of their work and practice.


Edgar Degas

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

"Do it again, ten times, a hundred times. Nothing in art must seem to be an accident, not even movement."

Anthony Gormley

"Art has to change things, and if it was immediately

acceptable it would not be doing the job."

"Making beautiful things for everyday use is a wonderful thing to do.. making life flow more easily.. but art confronts life, allowing it to stop and perhaps change direction.. they are completely different."


Philippe Starck

“I try to rediscover why that object exists at all, and why one should take the trouble to reconsider It. I don't consider the technical or commercial parameters so much as the desire for a dream that humans have attempted to project onto an object.”

Alvar Aalto

"The tubular steel chair is surely rational from technical and constructive points of view. It is light, suitable for mass production, and so on. But steel and chromium surfaces are not satisfactory from the human point of view."


For more information on each artist/designer click the links below.