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Frieze of Dancers
Frieze of Dancers
Oil on fabric
Framed: 103 x 233.5 x 7 cm (40 9/16 x 91 15/16 x 2 3/4 in.); Unframed: 70 x 200.5 cm (27 9/16 x 78 15/16 in.)
Gift of the Hanna Fund 1946.83
The ballet is a subject Degas returned to again and again over the course of his career. Rather than public performances, he often depicted dancers behind the curtain, practicing, waiting, or, as in this painting, lacing up their shoes.
This painting may depict a single dancer seen from four different viewpoints. The young woman is placed in an undefined setting, surrounded by mere wisps of color, applied so spontaneously that the paint ran and dripped. Degas even added the circles in the foreground with his thumb. Such audacity, while acceptable in a small sketch, must have shocked the artist's contemporaries when presented on a six-foot canvas. Equally radical is the idea of combining multiple views of a single figure. Degas's unusual presentation may have been inspired by the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)
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