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Waiting, c. 1879-1882

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Pastel on beige laid paper
19 x 24 in. (48.2 x 61 cm)
Jointly owned by the Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

Although the simplicity of this composition is rather unusual for Edgar Degas’s mid-career work, Waiting nevertheless presents some of the artist’s most frequently used visual strategies. First, the technique relays Degas’s great skill with the medium. By 1880 he was able to accomplish the beautiful details of the hands and slippers with the same brilliance as the varied texture of the feathery tulle and the coarse wooden floor. At the same time, the extreme opposites of black and white in the costumes of the dancer and her chaperone dominate the scene, and they reflect Degas’s adept plays of dark and light. Through the absence of other distractions, as well as the color and skill with which the figures are executed, Degas insists upon their physical presence. Like many of the artist’s more enigmatic compositions, however, their obscured faces and differences in pose as well as dress deny any concrete narrative between them.

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