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  • Edgar Degas
    Jul 19, 1834 - Sep 27, 1917
  • The Star - 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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The Star
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  • The Star

  • Edgar Degas
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  • also known as Dancer on Stage

    1878
    Pastel over monotype on laid paper
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    This painting is titled L'étoile (The Star). We see a lone ballerina on the stage, the stage lighting shining brilliantly onto her and her performance. She is en pointe, balancing gracefully on one leg and maintaining a majestic pose. There are flowers on her white dress; her ribbon flows out from her extended neck; and she wears a crown atop her head. She bends her head back and closes her eyes in sweet triumph at the success of her performance (perhaps the audience is clapping for this young star at this moment), and her rosy cheeks blush with the satisfaction of accomplishment.

    She almost could be a star, ascending to the heavens with her great feats of physical strength and perfected gracefulness. Maybe in this moment she feels, like a star, on top of the world, but one glance to the left and we can see, hiding behind the curtain, a foreboding, black figure standing calmly and watchfully to the side of all the action. This is the young dancer's patron. His is the world of violent brushstrokes and threatening forms, as seen in the stylistic upper-left-hand section of the painting. The stage curtains are painted frenziedly, and that whole side of the painting seems to be inching toward the sanctity of the star's glowing brilliance. The lines bear down over her and seek to engulf her. This is the reality behind this radiant performer. Soon her act will be done, and she will have to go back to her controlling male patron. She is most likely, in reality, a prostitute - his prostitute (this was the reality of the ballerina business during the late 1800s). Her life is probably actually quite far from being so bright off the stage, but here, for this brief moment of time she can break free from all of that in a dance that will elevate her to stardom. So she closes her eyes and dances away in happiness; but it is all farce, for a haunting and inescapable reality awaits just behind the curtain. For late 19th century female performers, this was the unfortunate reality, and Degas tapped into it with an almost obsessive devotion. Symbolic of the industrial dystopia created under Victorianism, a star such as this would have been snuffed out behind the smoke and exhaust of steel factories and mills during this time. An overall negativity and hopeless cynicism developed in writers and artists as Modernism developed into an established philosophy.

    Artists like the Impressionists approached the Turn of the Century with doubt and pessimism for the coming millennium. There was a gloom that seemed to pervade over the future.

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stars Vicki from United States.
I love this painting. It's beautiful!

Other paintings by Edgar Degas:

At the Stables, Horse and Dog
At the Stables, Horse and Dog
The Green Dancer
The Green Dancer
The Bellelli Family
The Bellelli Family
Woman with a Towel
Woman with a Towel
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.