Edgar Degas was a French artist who found great inspiration in ballet dancers, devoting almost half of his artistic output to the subject. He was known for his unique way of placing the viewer in the wings, as if among the elite subscribers who roamed backstage. One of his most notable pastel drawings is “Ballet Dancers in the Wings” (c. 1890-1900), which captures several dancers in different contiguous movements in a diagonal composition.
Degas’ artistic approach was to idealize the ballet through frenzied sketches, saturated colors, and backdrops that added to the spectacle of the performance. He was also known for the variety of textures achieved in his work through experimenting with different mediums such as pastel, gouache, distemper, and essence. Despite his successful career as an artist, Degas was a difficult man who had a reputation for being a misogynist.
Degas’ treatment of ballet dancers, who he often hired to pose for him, is sometimes overlooked. He used his subjects as models to achieve the most astonishing representations of dance, sometimes to the point of considered almost violent depictions.