A Lesson in Reflections

Degas depicted his dancers practicing, stretching, resting, talking, but rarely performing. In that sense, by capturing the point of view of the dancers themselves, he not only explored new techniques and compositions, but he was part of a movement that sought new ways of thinking about art itself. Perhaps he identified with the ballet dancer who spends long hours in the studio, because it mirrored the classical training he received in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, with the meticulous lines of Ingres serving as constant inspiration. However, he experimented with the quality of his lines, such as making contrasts between the endless edge of the tutu and the hard wood of the chair, or placing bold touches of color in subtle places. This intimate connection with the atmosphere the dancers lived in appears in the care with which every brushstroke was applied, giving his work a luminous and almost ethereal quality. He was both the flaneur, the casual observer, and dancer himself when he painted.

Geese photos by Katrina

He achieved this delicate balance through the variety of viewpoints and compositions, which contributed to the sense that his paintings were snapshots of daily life. He drew inspiration not only from the bourgeois culture of Paris at the time, but also from Japanese woodblock prints that were beginning to fascinate European artists.  These prints undoubtedly influenced his sense of composition, where the intentional cropping, combined with his refined understanding of perspective, illustrated and transcended the everyday.
More about Degas’ dancers