Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Three Dancers
Pastel on paper | 90.5 x 85 cm | C. 1898
Degas was a pastel painter par excellence. Especially in his later work, which this is an example of, he explored the pastel crayon technique. He put many layers of colour on top of each other and varied his brush strokes to create the most incredible effects that in many ways can be said to anticipate abstract art.
The dancer motif was one of Degas’ favourites. In this picture it was not so much the narrative of the actual dancing or the individual dancers that he was interested in. Rather, his narrative was to be found in the explosive sensation of colour and the different structures he discovered in the surfaces. The dancers pose, but as figures they are absorbed by the intensity of the colours and by Degas’ abstract technique, and the stage – or the audience – in the background has become a purely imaginative pastel landscape.
Degas stood out as one of the most important artists of early Modernism. He had a special position in the group of Impressionists because of his striking, radical painting method. In particular his unique way of framing the motifs and the almost voyeuristic observations of life around him are remarkable. Central to his work too is his pioneering exploration of the potential of pastel technique, monotype, sculpture and photography.
Motifs: Portraits, history paintings, “modern life”, ballerinas, washerwomen, women at their dressing table and racehorses.
Read more about Degas at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.