Russian Dancers

At the end of the 19th century, Degas executed a series of pastel paintings showing exuberant and brightly costumed Russian women dancing with abandon. He had studied the poses and placement of the individual figures in large preliminary charcoal drawings, before moving on to highly worked pastels.

Degas has added a strip of paper to the bottom of the sheet, but not enough to include the foot of the foreground dancer. This simple device of cropping the foot, as well as the blurring of forms, gives us the impression that, as spectators, we are standing thrillingly close to the action.

Key facts

Artist dates
1834 - 1917
Full title
Russian Dancers
Date made
about 1899
Medium and support
Pastel and charcoal on tracing paper laid onto millboard
73 x 59.1 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by the Sara Lee Corporation, Chicago, through the American Friends of the National Gallery, London, 1998
Inventory number
Location in Gallery