Edgar Degas was a French sculptor, painter, draughtsman, printmaker, pastellist, and photographer. He was a founder member of the Impressionist group and the leader within it of the Realist tendency. He organized several of the group’s exhibitions, but after 1886 he showed his works very rarely and largely withdrew from the Parisian art world. As he was sufficiently wealthy, he was not constricted by the need to sell his work, and even his late pieces retain a vigor and a power to shock that is lacking in the contemporary productions of his Impressionist colleagues.
By 1917 Degas had become almost a public monument and after his death his reputation mounted steadily. Many of his works entered public collections in Europe, the USA, and Japan; most major museums of modern art have acquired at least one Degas. A constant stream of research and exhibitions revolving around Degas has also accompanied the consistent acquisition of his works.
Degas’ pastels of dancers are instantly recognizable for their subtle grace and beauty. The movements of dancers endlessly fascinated Degas and their smallest gestures never went unnoticed by his keen artistic eye. He spent years sketching dancers during rehearsals, classes, and performances, gathering greater understanding of the human form and movement. This copious study culminated in numerous pastels of ballerinas, which feature a variety of balletic poses, a luminous treatment of pastel, and interesting compositional perspectives (inspired by both the modern photograph and traditional Japanese screenprints).