Friday, 5 March 2010

Degas on Dancers

For me, Edgar Degas is the only artist who accurately captures the highs and lows of a dancer's life. His ballet paintings are legendary; compelling glimpses into hidden wings and rehearsal studios, as well as beautifully depicting those glorious moments spent on stage.

I deliberately wrote Degas on Dancers, not Degas on Dancing, because when I look at any of his ballet images, I get the distinct impression that it is not the act of dancing that interests him, so much as the dancers themselves.

 Danseuse, c. 1874

"Personally, I don't like cabs. You don't see anyone. That's why I love to ride on the omnibus-you can look at people. We were created to look at one another, weren't we?" (Degas).


Every minute gesture seemed to interest Degas, from the tired stretch of a dancer with aching muscles, to the vacant boredness of performers waiting in the wings. These gestures were not grand; were not meant for public view, but Degas' work is all the more wonderful because he chose to invite us into that private world. Devoid of glamour, without the glow of stage lighting and the approval of applause, he instead gave us a dancer's alter-ego; practising, perfecting, waiting and nervous; exhausted and sore but nevertheless determined. For me, this is where their true beauty lies.


Image courtesy of Olga's Gallery.

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