Edgar Degas
(Paris, 1834-1917, Paris)
Dancers in the Foyer, ca. 1889
Oil on canvas, 41.5 x 92 cm
Studio stamp lower left
Lemoisne 996
Is it odd, or rather significant that the work of the self-contained bachelor and sarcastic mocker Degas culminates in the representation of the ballet? He thus acquires the easy lightness which his personal life lacked... The theme of the ballet and the daily routine of the ballet girls is handled from the 1870s down into the 1890s in oil and later mainly in pastel, the treatment extending from the lovely to the grotesque, heralding 20th century expressionism. Degas follows the ballet in his pictures from the statically constructed ballet lessons with the dancing master to the actual performances on the stage, which he watches from his box, and he goes behind the scenes where the dancers wait for their cues and spend their last minutes in practice. In these later pictures, including ours, he penetrates to the heart, as it were, of the ballet, and thus achieves maximum contact with this theme. His rapid style, developed from the pastel, leaves the preliminary brushwork visible, and thus heightens the impression of the fleeting glimpse of the swiftly changing groups of dancers.