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Artwork Review: The Rehearsal by Degas
Posted by TK on 9/4/2009 12:12:57 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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Degas’ interest in theatrical subjects began in the late 1860’s, and by 1870 he was sketching and painting ballet dancers both on and off the stage. He always worked from his drawings and from memory, however—never directly on the spot.

The Rehearsal by Degas

Oil on Canvas

The dominant structural element of this work is a spiral staircase, drawn from a wooden model Degas used to study perspective. It is placed at the extreme left of the composition and the placement of figures is similarly asymmetrical. The row of dancers at the left is partly obscured by the staircase, and the group at the right is sliced by the picture frame. Depth is conveyed by the slanting floorboards, the diagonal line of dancers in arabesque and the sharply receding steps of the staircase.

The sunlight flooding the studio gives a transparent, luminous quality to the pink, blue, pale yellow and violet tints within the white tutus. But the young bodies underneath the costumes are for the most part only vaguely suggested. The only fully detailed figures are the seated ballet student, wrapped in her blue-green shawl, and the old woman (actually a likeness of Sabine Neyt, Degas’ housekeeper) who helps dress the dancers.

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