Degas – Painter of the Ballet
In this sparklingly fresh work in pastel, Degas captures a group of four dancers in mid-flight as they step out from the wings. Their arms and legs extended in arabesque, their black neck ribbons, colorful headdresses and frothy white tutus are caught in the bright glow of the footlights. Before them stretches a broad expanse of empty stage and at the rear painted scenery flats vaguely suggest a landscape setting. Only rarely did Degas depict actual performances and here he gives us no precise information about the ballet or the dancers – their faces are hidden from view and no figure is seen in its entirety. Sotheby’s
Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), Danseuses en Blanc (c.1878), Signed Degas (upper right), Pastel and gouache on joined paper, 20 7/8 by 25 3/8 in., 53 by 65.2 cm, Source: Sotheby’s.(detail).
“Dancers in White encapsulates
Degas’s unique vision of the strange poetry
and the pure enchantment of the dance.”
Japanese Influences: Quest For Unusual Viewpoints
…the bird’s eye view and cropped figures in the Japanese ukiyo-e prints by artists such as Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858) that were so admired by Degas and his contemporaries, provided refreshing alternatives to the single-point perspective idea of composition that had prevailed since the Renaissance.
The quest for unusual viewpoints – looking down on the stage from a box or frequently the view from the wings – recurs consistently in Degas’s highly innovative ballet scenes of the late 1870s and early 1880s. Breaking with all conventional notions of composition, these novel and daring pictorial structures allowed Degas to conflate the glamour of the performance on stage with vignettes of the more prosaic world behind the scenes. Sotheby’s
Click for Enlarged Detail:
- Edgar Degas
- 1834 – 1917
- DANSEUSES EN BLANC
Signed Degas (upper right)
Pastel and gouache on joined paper
20 7/8 by 25 3/8 in., 53 by 65.2 cm
Executed circa 1878.
- Sotheby’s would like to thank Dr. Ann Dumas, Curator, Royal Academy of Arts, for writing the catalogue essay for this lot.
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