Dancers Resting 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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Edgar Degas was incredibly fascinated with the natural movement of the performing arts.

This is evident through his work showcasing performance artists taking stage as ballerinas. Degas adored portraying the art of ballet onto his canvas as he created hundreds of paintings in this genre. Dancers Resting is a similar piece that shows the behind the scenes that goes into putting on a show. While Degas adored painting ballerinas, he was also seized by what goes on off stage. This is seen within his work Dancers In An Exercise Hall, Dancers Against A Stage Flat, and The Actresses Dressing Room. These paintings show the artist receiving special privilege to view the behind the scenes moments. Or rather, his imagination thinking of what goes on when no one is watching.

This is a classic element throughout his work as it creates a communication between the artist and viewer. Degas is telling his audience a story of what goes on behind the curtain. The audience on the other hand is fascinated and intrigued by the artist’s interpretation of life and art. This communication between the two create a relationship through the painting. This pastel piece shows two young woman resting during their ballet lessons or rehearsal. Based on the body language of the young women, the viewer is able to witness that Degas is attempting to send a message through the piece.

The woman near the centre of the painting are shown through a side profile. She vents her chest downwards towards the floor as she looks towards her feet. Her bent shoulders imply that the ballerina is tired. Her right arm reaches towards her ballet flat as she fixes it. The viewer is not able to see the woman’s face as only a small glimpse of the right side of her face is evident to the viewer. Her small point nose pokes out, while her eyes stare towards the floor. The woman’s bright red hair fills the painting as it captivates the viewer. The rich colour matches the bench in which the ballerina is seated.

Her colleague on her left is seated in a similar position looking onto the floor. She is bent forward with her arms placed on her knees holding her head up. Her other arm is folded across the knee. Her body language manifests her defeat and tiredness after a long practice. It is this ballerina that truly conveys the emotion of the other ballerina. While both women are dressed in grand white puffy costumes, the woman on the left wears a large sweater on top to keep her warm. It is evident that these two women are practicing for a recital. Yet, both seem defeated as they slouch their body and look into the floor. This is a natural position of the human nervous system when it feels defeated and over taken.

It is evident that this artwork may have been created solemnly as a sketch. While Degas did finish the painting, he later added some grey pencil work throughout the piece to give it the effect of a sketch. The artist was critical to do this in order to create a rawer feel to the work. Since the piece is a behind the scenes shot of ballerinas at rehearsal, the artist used the same technique to illustrate the scene. This is alongside evident with the green wall in the back ground that wasn’t fully coloured. While the artist did focus the painting in a specific perspective, he didn’t do much to add a completed touch onto his work.