Home: Overview: Biographies: Edgar Degas

In the early 1870s the female ballet dancer became his favorite theme. He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes in which dancers on stage, entering the stage, and resting or waiting to perform are shown simultaneously and in counterpoint, often from an oblique angle of vision. On a visit in 1872 to Louisiana, where he had relatives in the cotton business, he painted The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans (finished 1873; Musée Municipal, Pau, France), his only picture to be acquired by a museum in his lifetime. Other subjects from this period include the racetrack, the beach, and cafe interiors. The ballet dancers and the bathing women look like a sequence in a movie, all of the same fascinating for their totally innovating cuts, for the decentralized pagination, for the unusual angularity: in this sense, it is evident the influence from the orientalism, highly fashionable at his time, and from Japanese prints, of which Degas was a fond collector. But Degas oustands also for the delicate lines of his drawings, as well as for his exemplary interpretation of light.

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