Edgar Degas, a prominent French painter in the Impressionism style, created “L’Etoile” or “The Star” pastel painting in his interest of capturing ballet dancers in their backstage dynamics. The 1878 artwork displays a ballerina on stage, which is one of the many portraits of ballet dancers that Degas made in the 1870s. The painting is currently stored at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Degas’ fascination with ballet dancers’ lives enabled them to create an extensive collection of ballerina portraitures and dances, such as the “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans” statue.
Degas was continually moved by dancers’ artistry and worked within their world, assembling his studio in the heart of Paris’ opera district. His portrayal of ballet content was known for its outstanding ability to obscure uneasy appendages, vibrant colors, and well-defined shapes. Contrarily, his ballerina portraits explicitly reveal dancers in their usual states, outside the perspective of audience expectations. In essence, Degas preferred to catch and show people in unguarded and exposed moments, penetrating the usually fabricated glamour of stage performance.
Many of his other ballerina portraits, including “La Danseuse,” have a similar sensorial style to “L’Etoile” and are known for exploding the borders of traditional portrait format to include figures’ actual environment. Degas’ artwork, therefore, is an insight into not only ballet dancers’ roles but also a broad scope of society. He painted dance professionals, daytime women carrying out mundane routines, and women lounging in bed at night in his collection.