Dancers 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 is noted as one of the founders of impressionist art, evident through the rich pastel painting of Dancers. Yet, Degas preferred to be seen as a realist, as the style dominated the art scene during the 19th century in France.

His amazing draftsmanship was held as the foundation of his art, allowing for him to created detailed paintings while still keeping an impressionist touch to his work. The beauty of the impressionist style is the wide range of perspectives that can be uncovered. It does not solemnly focus on showcasing the exact event that is occurring, yet rather deep hues and shapes that manipulate the artwork into something else. This psychological still complexes the artwork into another emotion apart from what is occurring at the scene.

The painting of the dancers is based on the artist’s lust for showcasing ballerinas dancing. Degas had first started drawing nude woman bathing, then moved on to showcasing the rich movement of ballerinas dancing. The painting, Dancers, describes this exact phenomenon as a group of women prepare to dance. A horizontal line of women stand near one another against a wall as they prepare to depict their skills. The main character within the painting is the tall woman standing with her right arm against her hip, and her other arm against the wall. She bends one leg behind the other as she leans towards the other girls in preparation for their dance.

These young women are dressed in a light mint matching costume. The top part of the attire hugs across their chest with white lace detailing. Toward the bottom, the grand skirt expands into a tutu until the knees. Degas uses glimpses of light orange and pops of white throughout the ballerina’s dresses to add depth to them. Their legs are painted in a light nude pink that does not showcase exact shoes nor feet. Only the focal woman’s face is depicted with a few glimpses of detail through a pointy nose and eyes. The other woman’s faces within the painting are morphed and hidden.

Near the left of the painting, a curtain is painted as the ballerinas seem to be standing back stage awaiting their part. A glimpse of a green tutu is shown near the bottom left of the painting, hinting that there are many additional ballerinas. Their mint green dresses hold a contrast to the rest of the painting as there is a different colour scheme that is showcased. The back wall on which the woman holds her hand is painted in a swirling pattern of rich gold, orange, and azure shades. While the wall holds colours both in the warm and cool palette, the tones come together as one accentuating the woman. These colours add a deep contrast to the mint green colour of the woman’s dresses.

As the women await their turn in nervousness, the viewer is able to feel a hint of emotion upon looking at the stunning portrait. Edgar Degas held a magnificent gift through his ability to be able to portray emotion even in the most complex style. The traditional methods on which Degas has based his work had been transformed to a contemporary style, which in-turn allowed for the artist to gain the title of the founder of impressionist art. A few other paintings that hold a similar style to Dancers by Degas, include After The Bath, Portrait of a Young Woman, and Blue Dancers.