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Dancers in the Wings, c. 1876-1878

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Pastel, gouache, distemper, and "essence" on paper, mounted on board
27-1/4 x 19-3/4 in. (69.2 x 50.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Degas was intrigued with the ballet as subject matter, and quite often with the performers behind the scenes. This pastel illustrates the artist's innovative techniques and distinctive style. He has used a variety of media, but the most striking is his virtuoso use of pastel to achieve luminous colors and diaphanous textures. This work also exemplifies Degas' method of arranging his figures asymmetrically, allowing one figure to partially block off another, or be cut off by the picture frame. The composition is made up of at least ten pieces of paper, which he added to enlarge the original drawing of the rear figure. The most extraordinary addition is the narrow strip of paper along the right side, just wide enough to include the dancer's eye.

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