Ballerinas Adjusting Their Dresses Edgar Degas Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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At the onset of the artist's career, he enjoyed to instil individuality upon the figures within his painting. As evident within the pastel piece above, Degas carefully showcases each character by detailing what they look like. While one figure might be the focal point of the artwork where the viewer's initial attention falls to, ultimately all of the figures are given their own attention as Degas detailed their characteristics.

This element is present within the artwork as Degas carefully gives each ballerina the same detailing as the other. While the artwork is composed in an Impressionism style, Degas still works towards bringing attention onto each figure. This allows for the viewer's attention to not necessarily fall initially onto the figure in front, but rather the cluster of heads near the top left of the painting. The ballerinas are working as one to create a performance the crowd is more than eager to see. Yet, while analyzing the painting, the attention falls back upon the ballerina in the front fixing her sleeve. While it's hard to tell whether the women are on stage or not, it is most likely off stage as a number of them are adjusting the straps on their dresses. This gives the viewer a backstage perspective as to what is going on behind the scenes as the ballerina's prepare to perform.

While Edgar Degas uses pastel to create this piece, the exquisite detailing and texture gives the perception that it's in fact oil on canvas. Rather than dragging the pastels across the canvas as the artist had in his art work The Actresses Dressing Room, Degas instead decides to use a dotted technique to illustrate the texture of the work. The detailing is so precise that it gives the illusion that the viewer is able to see the texture of the women's skin. Degas places a light source near the top right of the painting to guide him as where to shade and contour. This is strategically placed source of light as it illuminates the ballerina’s faces as they look that way. The main ballerina’s hair is accentuated as the red hues light up. Whereas, the other ballerina’s hair colour remains in a dark brown.

Degas has used this technique to subconsciously bring the viewer's attention onto the woman in the front, as her hair colour is different from the rest of the ballerinas. Similarly, her green costume is most shown in a ruffled chiffon material. The artist continues to illustrate her costume using soft dots throughout the piece. The other women behind also have green detailing in their dresses near the top. The straps fall off the shoulder revealing parts of the women's bust and collars. Alongside, all of the women within the painting have a matching hair accessory in green and orange near the top off their heads. All of these characteristics bring attention to the women in a similar manner as the artist carefully depicts them.

The background of the artwork is covered in impressionistic tones swirling with one another in a mosaic pattern. Everything from red to green, purple, to orange mix with one another as the background of the artwork. Degas continues to use these bright colours everywhere from the ballerinas to the simple background demanding the same attention. These bold colours are an immensely different turn from the artist’s contemporaries Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. While these artists also painted in an Impressionism style, they preferred to use pastel colours that were rather muted. Degas on the other hand immensely enjoyed using rich shades if they brought the life he needed within his artwork.