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The oil on canvas piece titled the Ballet Scene promotes the artist’s desire to depict the behind the scenes of ballet.
As one of the founding fathers of Impressionism, Edgar Degas is immensely gifted in his style of sensual art. He has a brilliant understanding for the colours and tones to use to accentuate any piece of work. As evident within the painting, the Ballet Scene, the artist is able to create a stunning setting that showcases a story through an ample number of colours. As often seen through the artist’s work, Edgar Degas was fascinated by the theatrical energy of ballerinas, actresses, and dancers. He often depicted them in their natural form dancing away while Degas attempted to capture them.
The painting uncovers two young women standing behind the curtain preparing to go on stage. They are dressed in dark teal romantic tutus that are bell shaped towards their knees. The artist adds a touch of white ruffles to their costume to accentuate the detail. Degas uses light linear brush strokes to showcase the texture of the chiffon tutu across the canvas of the artwork. He also adds a few shades of burgundy red to add contrast to the painting. While their costumes most likely did not have these burgundy shades if based on an actual costume, Degas used this characteristic to accentuate the gown in an impressionist style. Alongside these two women back stage are prominent figures to the right of the painting. Roughly half a dozen of ballerinas are portrayed dancing on stage in a multitude of different costumes.
While the women behind stage preparing to go on are dressed in dark azure coloured costumes, the women on stage are dressed in pastel shades in the warm spectrum. This alludes to the fact that these ballerinas will most likely be preforming separately from one another. The ballerinas currently on stage performing are drenched in pastel pinks, purples, yellows, and even blues. These softer colours are a strategic decision by the artist as it allows him to blend their bodies into one another in order to not take attention from the focal point of the painting. Rather, the viewers gaze falls back upon the main characters backstage awaiting their turn. The artist adored telling a story through his work, getting a behind the scene look as to what goes on.
It was thrilling for Degas to depict the backstage life of these dancers, as if he was revealing their secrets. Or, perhaps the artist enjoyed pretending that he had knowledge of what truly goes on behind the curtains. Another painting by Degas in which he reveals a behind the scene look at the performer’s life is in his painting The Actresses Dressing Room. This artwork similarly gives the viewer the behind the scenes look as to what goes on when the audience isn’t watching. The genuine hardship and preparation it takes into creating a beautiful show.
Edgar Degas sticks to dark warm tones to colour the surrounding setting of the artwork. He uses burden reds to illustrate the curtain near the right, and neutral browns to paint the floor of the stage. Near the top and bottom right of the painting, the viewer is able to see rich blend of orange and green shades swirling into one another. This impressionism touch to the painting is a signature characteristic of Degas that he often worked to illustrate in his paintings. The artwork holds an immensely similar energy to the artist’s contemporary Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who is well known for creating artwork with a similar touch.