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  • Edgar Degas
    Jul 19, 1834 - Sep 27, 1917
  • Ballet Rehearsal - Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers.
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Ballet Rehearsal
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  • Ballet Rehearsal

  • Edgar Degas
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  • circa 1875
    Gouache and pastel
    Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, United States.

    Degas participates in the Modern practice of being a flaneur when he observes the lives, both personal and public, of ballerinas, but as an artist choosing a specific subject matter to zero in and focus on, he is distinguishing himself stylistically through his subject choice. Whereas Monet applied his talents both to people and water lilies, church buildings and haystacks, Degas is more selective, and it is because he can narrow in on a microcosm by doing so.

    His ballerina series show not just the world of stage performers of the latter half of the 19th century; it portrays on a more subliminal level the condition of women in the late Victorian Age. Most ballerinas at this time were young, orphaned girls who acquired employment and pay only via the patronage of older men, men who would often require sexual favors from these helpless minors. Many of them were in fact hired as prostitutes alongside their dancing careers, and Degas would have known this quite well. We see evidence of the fact in his paintings when a tall, dark, male figure standing along the sidelines of the scene, looming, ominous, menacing. Painted more as eerie ghost-like figures than as responsible theater owners, these men remain in the shadows, concealed and anonymous, but their presence pervades each of Degas' works with an undeniable aura of haunting disquiet. Suddenly the ballerinas become an object of our sympathy not just for the long, thankless hours spent in exhausting physical strain but for their very situational states. But the pathos to their condition is presented here with more sarcasm and social critique than poignant sincerity.

    These subjects are sad, and the artist wants to present them with the object of generating sympathy in the heart of the viewer; but also Degas took pleasure in criticizing the establishment, mocking the hypocrisy of Victorian society's supposed "domesticity" and propriety. Artists like Edgar Degas made it their mission to expose the darker side of the Modern scene through paintings such as these.

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Other paintings by Edgar Degas:

Ballet Dancers in the Wings
Ballet Dancers in the Wings
Ballet Dancers on the Stage
Ballet Dancers on the Stage
Ballet Scene
Ballet Scene
Ballet Scene 1885
Ballet Scene 1885
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas As the son of a wealthy Parisian banking family, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas originally planned to study law before opting to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1855. His studies there strongly emphasized traditional drawing skills. Degas excelled and his extraordinary draftsmanship became a hallmark of his work. In 1856, Degas traveled extensively throughout Italy where he studied renaissance and classical masterpieces.

As a founding member of the Impressionists, Degas helped to organize the ground-breaking exhibition of 1874, exhibiting 10 of his own pieces in this inaugural show. While historically labeled an Impressionist, Degas preferred the term "Naturalist". He seldom painted en plein- air. Instead preferring to work from sketches and models. The artist once said: "My art has nothing spontaneous about it, it is all reflection." His studies frequently convey an element of psychological tension, offering the viewer intimate vignettes of life in late 19th century Paris. Fascinated with the movement of forms through space, Degas often sketched dancers from the wings of theaters, working in pastel and charcoal to capture his subjects with an unrivaled immediacy. Women dancing or merely engaged in the activities of daily life consistently his favored subject. Scholarship is currently divided as to whether Degas was a misogynist or an early feminist but the raging controversy has yet to dampen enthusiasm for the artist's work.

Degas liked photography so he painted similar to how a camera would capture a picture.