Edgar Degas: Ballet dancers
There are many great paintings to remind us that the artists of the Impressionist age were sensitively aware of contemporary life. Among the supreme masterpieces of the century are Degas’s pictures of the ballet and its dancers. The impulse towards painting the contemporary scene came to him not only from Courbet and Manet but from his friend, the critic Duranty, the exponent of the aesthetics of naturalism. Yet in the particular direction of his tastes and his conception of design he was entirely individual. To study and convey movement was a chosen task, first undertaken on the race course and then in his many pictures of the Opera, viewed from behind the scenes, in the wings, or from the orchestra stalls during a performance.
In the early 1870s the female ballet dancer became his favorite theme. He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes in which dancers on stage, entering the stage, and resting or waiting to perform are shown simultaneously and in counterpoint, often from an oblique angle of vision.