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La Classe de Danse

Updated: Feb 12

While Edgar Degas never actually called himself an “Impressionist,” even though he was one of the group’s main founders. Instead, he preferred to call himself a “Realist” or “Independent.” The artist began his art career by replicating Italian Rennaisance paintings at the Lourve, and then gained experience in Louis Lamothe’s studio. In his teen years, he took multiple trips around Italy, one of his main sources of inspiration. Like other Impressionists, he enjoyed creating pieces containing modern life, especially activities, one of these being ballet. Degas specifically gained interest in ballerinas during the 1870s, when he made exactly 1,500 works featuring them. 

Degas regularly went to the Paris Opera house as both a visitor in the dance studios and a viewer of their performances. He was mostly interested in creating pieces of ballerinas in the dance studio rather than during a performance. In La Classe de danse, ballerinas are about to end class and are visibly feeling tired. Some are stretching, fixing a ribbon, stretching their backs, or watching their teacher speak. The artist painted the piece for the French opera singer and art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure and was finished two years after Foyer de la Dance, showing his transition to Impressionism. It did this by showing the changes his art experienced throughout the years. The raised angle to the painting delivers a stronger perspective of the details and colors. 

In La Classe de danse, we can see that the colors are much more muted than typical artwork, which is because the only light in the room is from the windows. Degas wants the viewer to focus on the dancer’s poses, so he made color less important. If you look closely at the ballerinas, you can see how there is a dark outline around them to add volume. Degas also uses his own unique perspective, depicting a more dramatic angle. He does this by adding thin-downed scraped layering, rubbed with rag and very well drafted lines on top, showing the paint behind. 

Edgar Degas’ work changed the world of art through his ways of showing movement.

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