Edgar Degas was a physical painter. Through his paintings, Degas attempted to give human forms weight and depth. He often painted his models standing in awkward positions, shifting weight from one foot to the other, stepping out of the bathtub, adjusting clothing or fixing hair. The models may look uncomfortable or even gangly, but they always look realistic, as though they could spin directly out of the paintings at a moment's notice.
Degas was able to model his paintings so accurately, in part, because he was an adept sculptor. Degas often began sculptures in wax or clay, attempting to portray how models would truly stand or sit, before he began painting.
Consider Ballet Dancers in the Wings by Degas. Here, the Degas dancers stretch and bend in what is typically a private moment. No attempt is given here to make the dancers seem graceful or otherworldly. Instead, they point their toes. They rest their heads in their hands. They stretch and support their weight on the walls. Their proportions are perfect, and their bodies seem weighted and accurate.
In Dance Class at the Opera, students once again stretch and bend through their exercises. While some dancers are in formal, accurate poses, others sprawl on chairs or stand with vacant expressions. The emphasis here is on reporting and realism, and on making the bodies seem to occupy the space without being reduced to mere decorations.
It is this spirit that also infuses the Degas ballerinas he sculpted. In Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, a young dancer is shown in an informal, relaxed position. Her arms are long and crossed behind her back. Her expression is vacant. Her hips are thrust forward, but her weight remains balanced on her feet. This sculpture caused a stir when it was first shown as it didn't seek to glorify the grace and beauty of the dancer. Instead, she is shown as a gangly girl. But it's easy to see the connection between this young, realistically shown dancer and the dancers shown in the paintings by Degas.
Degas considered his sculptures private experiments, and rarely showed them in public. After the artist's death, his heirs found nearly 150 wax sculptures in the Degas studio, and had them cast into bronze so they would not deteriorate. Only nine of these sculptures are in public collections.
A new exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art explores the connection between sculptures and paintings by Degas. Entitled "Degas: Form, Movement and the Antique," the show pairs famous images of Degas dancers with iconic sculptures, including Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. This is the first exhibit of artwork by Degas to be shown in the Tampa region, and curators expect big crowds.
You can own your own oil painting reproduction of Degas dancers by placing a secure order through our website. Browse our extensive collection of Degas paintings, and choose a painting that speaks to your heart. We'll start working as soon as you place your order, and we'll make you a painting you'll be proud to exhibit in your own home.