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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 'Ballet Dancers', 1888

Key facts
Full title Ballet Dancers
Artist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Artist dates 1834 - 1917
Date made 1888
Medium and support Pastel on paper
Dimensions 62.5 × 70.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit On loan from a private collection
Inventory number L1250
Location Not on display
Image copyright On loan from a private collection, © Private collection
Collection Main Collection
Ballet Dancers
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Dressed in vibrant orange and turquoise tutus, a frieze of five ballet dancers assemble off-stage after a demanding performance. Such dancers were an enduring inspiration for Degas who throughout his long career produced multiple studies, pastels and oil paintings of dancers rehearsing, performing and resting. The dancer, alone or in groups, provided the artist with unlimited opportunity to study the female figure, drapery and lighting effects.

This works shows the complex pastel technique favoured by Degas during the 1880s, layering, blending and smudging the tones to create the effect of rich, pulsating colour. The scene’s apparent naturalism belies careful composition. Sharp stabs of pure pastel bring out rich highlights. Degas made numerous studies of individual dancers, then combining them into such group sequences. This is one of five pastels showing this particular composition, none of them identical.

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