Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917), 'The Dancers,' Pastel on paper, about 1899. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1928.198
The incandescent, expressive colors of Edgar Degas's pastels seem to vibrate off the paper. Applied in layered webs of rhythmic strokes, they achieve remarkable effects of translucency, depth, and texture. He finished off the image with flecks of yellow scattered over the costumes and startling blue outlines accentuating the heads. After about 1895, Degas turned more and more to pastel as his eyesight grew worse. Unlike oil painting, it required little preparation, no drying time, and could easily be reworked.
Degas had an artistic fascination with the world of ballet. He seems to have been attracted to ballet's inherent conflict between artifice and nature: between the make-believe world of choreographed gestures, fantastic costumes, and painted scenery and the mundane reality of young women endlessly rehearsing, waiting, stretching, and adjusting their costumes, as in The Dancers.
Like many of the Impressionists, Degas drew inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints. The Dancers' high viewpoint and cropped, asymmetrical composition reflects Japanese influence.
Print size: 21" x 22"