Art / English

Degas’ Ballerinas

Beside Van Gogh I also adore Edgar Degas. Degas is one of the founders of impressionism. Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas was born in Paris in 1834. His father was a wealthy banker who loved art.

Unlike other Impressionists (Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh etc) who painted scenes in open air, Degas worked indoor. He was a regular visitor at the Opéra. After a while he became an abonnée (subscriber). With that Degas had almost an all access in the Opéra Garnier.

Degas painted the ballerinas during rehearsals, in the dressing room, in the foyer, backstage, onstage, in his own studio in Montmartre. He meticulously captured the movements, costume details, light and face expression. I love his works. His angle is sometimes extra ordinary at that time. This was caused by photography which was a novelty then.

Here are my pick of Degas ballerinas. Let’s begin from the rehearsal paintings.

This is one of the famous works of Degas, La classe de danse (Ballet lesson) collection of Musée d’Orsay, Paris.2015/01/img_8397.jpg



This ballerina needs to practice her plié.

This was painted in his Montmartre studio. Degas was like a father figure to the girls. He asked them to pose for him in his studio.

In the dressing room.

Series of ballerinas in different costumes backstage.





As you can see, Degas used not only oil but also charcoal and pastel (crayon). These are bored and stretching ballerinas in charcoal and pastel.



Parisian art world called him The painter of dancing girls. Degas explained his fascination for ballet and ballerina as

It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty

Resting ballerinas in between rehearsals



Important! Tightening the shoe lace. 2015/01/img_8383.jpg

Although he is famous for his ballerina paintings, Degas works also include middle class scenes in the bar, laundry women in Montmartre and portraits. One thing is sure, his paintings are mostly indoor scenes.

Starting from 1870es, Degas’ sight turned from bad to worst. This situation depressed him. As artistic and creative as he was, he focused on sculpting. He did this as excellent as painting. He quit working from 1909 before he became totally blind in 1911. Edgar Degas passed away in 1917.

If you are interested in knowing more about Degas, I will write another piece. Just see this one as an introduction to this talented all round artist.

All Degas paintings are taken from WikiArt, free images.

Edgar Degas
Impressionism Taschen
Edgar Degas: Drawings of dancers
Musée d’Orsay
Edgar Degas: La peinture en mouvement

19 thoughts on “Degas’ Ballerinas

  1. Please write another piece, i will read it for sure.
    Seeing the painting and remembered Natalie Portman in Black Swan.
    Nice painting, is any other reason why he painted the dancers? Did he love the dancers, did he want to be a dancer?

    • Yes. Rivalry between the ballerinas is common. I wonder how Degas dealt with that. Degas’ father loved art. As a part of bourgeoisie (his father was a wealthy banker), little Edgar, went to theaters and opèra. So he grew up with that. Degas was intrigued by the dancers, ballet and the process around it. The dancers were his muse. As long as I know, he was like a father figure to the girls.

      Degas’ other works with other subjects are also beautiful.

  2. Please write more about Degas Mba Yo. I love his works. Read about him many years ago. And for the images you posted here. They’re beautiful.

  3. White Collar series introduced me to Degas, unlike other paintings, I found it ‘rather easy to understand’. Do you know why he lost his visibility?

    Do please write more about him Mbak.

    • He had a problem with his retina Tje. He couldn’t bear bright and sunlight. This was the reason why he preferred to work indoor.

    • Ballerinas are pretty indeed Nadia. If you are interested in art, I have written some posts about it. Just browse the art category here.

  4. I love all the paintings in Degas’ ballerina series Lo. Remind me my time spent as ballerina in my olden day tee hee…. i wish i could have one of those painting! I always love everything in ballerina 😍

    • Gw tiap lihat ballerinanya Degas langsung denger komposisinya Tchaikovsky di Swan Lake. Bagus banget Ria. Pertama kali gw lihat lukisan ballerinanya Degas ini di Musée d’Orsay, gw terharu loh. Lebay banget deh tapi beneran. Bagus bener aslinya.

    • Bagus ya. Bayangin Feb, si Degas hampir tiap hari nongkrong di Opéra Garnier, buat skets dari ballerina yang lagi latihan, lagi bete, lagi dandan dan lagi dibelakang panggung. Seru ya jaman dulu. Kalo Degas sekarang masih hidup gw rasa dia akan rajin upload di Instagram 🙂

  5. I have always loved ballerinas even though I was never one. 🙂 Now that my daughter is taking lessons, I enjoy the recital at the end of the school year very very much.

    The paintings are beautiful indeed.

    • They are, right? Ballerinas move so light as feather but turn around so strong as an ox. Ah, how is your daughter doing in ballet class? Does she enjoy it? First years are hard and difficult. I had only survived for 8 months when I was young. Then I quit.

      • She has been doing Ballet since she was 2.5 years old. She is very athletic and plays sports with the boys meaning do everything together with her brother. Ballet is the only girl activity she’s doing, she never said she likes or hates it. So I keep her in Ballet, and she wants to take tap dance which I think is very good but unfortunately we can’t fit it in her schedule.
        We went to buy her ballet shoes when we were in Europe, I was like…did not want to leave the store…it was beautifully decorated, looking at the tutus and all the other stuffs, I was more mesmerized than her, poor girl, she’s living her mom’s dream :):):):):) just kidding….
        At what age did you take on ballet? Does G do any dance?

  6. Pingback: Paris as a poem in paintings | Chez Lorraine

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