National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Four Dancers Edgar Degas (artist)
French, 1834 - 1917
Four Dancers, c. 1899
oil on canvas
overall: 151.1 x 180.2 cm (59 1/2 x 70 15/16 in.) framed: 176.9 x 207.7 cm (69 5/8 x 81 3/4 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View
From the Tour: Edgar Degas
Object 5 of 7

Degas frequented the ballet and opera, where he found subjects not only in performance but also within the unexpected frames created by the angles of stage wings and practice-room mirrors.

He never accepted the label "impressionist," and his momentary, snapshot-like views result -- not from spontaneous improvisation -- but from deliberate arrangement. An avid photographer, his compositions were often influenced by that new medium. Here, for example, the figures are clustered to the left, some cut off at the picture edge. We cannot even be certain that it is four dancers we see -- perhaps, instead, this is a single figure, moving as in the sequential photographs of running horses and men by Eadweard Muybridge.

The sketchy background of the stage set, painted in a broad, almost blurry manner, is typical of Degas' late works, but he trains a sudden sharp focus on the dancers' backs. Our eye follows the linked movements of their arms, as Degas described in a sonnet: "The ribbon of her steps twists and knots...."

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Artist Information
Exhibition History

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