Musicians in the Orchestra 1872
did not always portray ballerinas backstage.
He has several pastels with ballerinas being the stars of the
this first picture we see an unusual perspective of the stage.
Dominating the foreground are the musicians, in the dark. In the foreground, but clearly visible
because of the spotlight on her tutu, is a very young ballerina,
bowing to the viewer.
Degas uses a skewed perspective to
allow our eyes to travel the distance from the tight-knit composition
of musicians in the foreground to the performing ballerinas on
stage. Thus, the composition is both tight and spacious.
Ballet Dancers 1885
in this following work, may have borrowed from Degas' painting. However, only the baton of the orchestra
director can be seen briefly--at the bottom right of the picture.
Our eyes focus
on the fast pace of the ballerinas performing on stage. Lautrec has skillfully captured the dynamism
of the dancers--perhaps he was able to do so because he had practiced
painting wild dancers in the more popular dance halls such as Moulin
de la Galette.
work breaks with tradition with his unusual perspective.
Lautrec breaks with tradition by capturing motion in all
its blur. Both treatments
may have been influenced by photography.
Small Dancer c1900
Although our focus on
"breaking away from the Academy" has been in painting, Degas
also experimented with wax sculpture.
These nudes, captured
at an instance in time, show Degas' preoccupation with capturing one
frame of motion in time--which he expressed in his pastels, in his
photos, in his sculptures. Degas not
only studied human motion, such as in the movement of dancers, he
also studied the movement of animals--that of horses.
It is interesting that
the woman on the bottom left is not a lean dancer, but one who
is comfortable moving her weight around. Such
an "ungainly" figure would have been frowned upon at
The Salon usually looked
down on wax sculpture, for it was probably not considered a classical
material such as marble or bronze.