Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Two Ballet Dancers in a Dressing Room, c.1880
Pastel on paper, 48.5 x 64 cm
Bequeathed, Mr E. Martyn, 1924
Observed from a high viewpoint, this scene depicts two ballerinas in a dressing room. Their white dresses, tied with blue sashes, are those typically worn by dancers in Degas’s rehearsal scenes. The dancer on the left adjusts her costume while her companion leans upon a chair, snatching a moment’s rest. A selection of costumes hang in the background forming a backdrop to the scene. A wash bowl and the cut-off forms of a jug and goblet rest upon a table. The space is cramped and functional, an intimate enclosure designed for quick changes rather than relaxation.
About the artist
Degas was a highly experimental artist, adept in multiple media and genres. Although he exhibited at the Impressionist exhibitions, he preferred to be known as a ‘realist’. Degas was interested in depicting contemporary life. Among his favourite subjects were the ballet, horse racing, theatre and cabaret scenes, as well as female figures at their toilette. He rarely painted en plein air and often worked in artificial rather than natural light. In the later years of his life Degas used pastel more than any other medium; as his eyesight declined his use of the material became noticeably broader and freer.