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Encore Degas! Ballet, Movement, and Fashion

People call me the painter of dancing girls… It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes. Edgar Degas to Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard, around 1900

At the turn of the twentieth century, the circumstances of a changing modern world were visible on the stage of the Paris ballet. Social classes mixed in this public setting, where some of the city’s poorest young women pirouetted across the stage for paying audiences. The dancers’ internationally influenced costumes often reflected larger cultural exchanges. Edgar Degas became a regular visitor to the ballet at the Paris Opera, which appealed to his interest in classical beauty and modern life. His studies of the ballet over four decades inspired generations of artists to take up the subject.

Some artists, like Degas and Auguste Rodin, depicted dancers as models, rendering their movements and innovative costumes. Other artists, including Jean-Louis Forain and Dame Laura Knight, studied dancers as entertainers who served both public and private audiences, illustrating intimate moments between productions. These works of art reveal the creative world behind the public spectacle.

The exhibition of works on paper in Gallery P28 changes every twelve months to highlight the variety of the collection, and to limit exposure of the light-sensitive pigments.

For groups interested in learning more about the artwork on view in this exhibition, please request a Europeon Art Collection tour and request in the notes that the exhibition be included as part of the tour.

Rehearsal of the Ballet by Edgar Degas

Image: Edgar Degas, French, 1834-1917, Rehearsal of the Ballet, ca. 1876. Gouache and pastel over monotype on laid paper. Purchase: The Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation Acquisition Fund, F73-30