Degas's Little Dancer
October 5, 2014 – February 8, 2015
West Main Floor Gallery 82

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1878–1881), Edgar Degas’s groundbreaking statuette of a young ballerina that caused a sensation at the 1881 impressionist exhibition, takes center stage in an exploration of Degas’s fascination with ballet and his experimental, modern approach to his work. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ world-premiere musical Little Dancer, which runs from October 25 through November 30, 2014.

Degas was a keen observer and wry but sympathetic chronicler of the daily life of dancers, depicting their world off-stage, at rehearsal or in the wings. Degas’s Little Dancer showcases this world of gaslight and struggle, as captured by the master.

One of the Gallery’s most popular works of art, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen will be presented with 14 additional works from the Gallery’s collection, including the monumental pastel Ballet Scene (c. 1907), monotypes and smaller original statuettes by Degas that are related to Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The exhibition also includes the oil painting The Dance Class (c. 1873) from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The National Gallery of Art has the largest and most important collection of Degas’s surviving original wax sculptures in the world. Its wax version of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is the only one formed by the artist’s own hands and the only sculpture he ever showed publicly. Degas did not carve sculpture but used an additive process. Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was modeled in wax over a metal armature, bulked with organic materials including wood, rope, and even old paintbrushes in the arms. Degas elevated the sculpture’s realism by affixing a wig of human hair and giving his ballerina a cotton-and-silk tutu, a cotton faille bodice, and linen slippers.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Image: Edgar Degas; Little Dancer Aged Fourteen; 1878–1881; pigmented beeswax, clay, metal armature, rope, paintbrushes, human hair, silk and linen ribbon, cotton and silk tutu, linen slippers, on wooden base; National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Related Artists

Degas, Edgar
, 1834 - 1917
Mathey, Paul
, 1844 - 1929

Related Programming & Events

National Gallery of Art
The Radicalism of the "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen"

Sunday, November 16, noon
West Building Lecture Hall

Inside Look: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

Sunday, November 23, 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall

Kennedy Center
Little Dancer Discussion Series

Degas & His Dancers
Saturday, November 8, 2014, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

The Most Famous Obscure Dancer in the World: Marie van Goethem
Saturday, November 15, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

The Life of a 19th Century Dancer: Paris Opera Ballet and Les Petits Rats
Saturday, November 22, 2014
, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

"Little Dancer" at The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center production of Little Dancer runs in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater from October 25 to November 30, 2014. The musical features book and lyrics by Tony Award® winner Lynn Ahrens, music by Tony Award® winner Stephen Flaherty, and direction and choreography by five-time Tony Award® winner Susan Stroman. Part fact, part fiction, and set in the harsh backstage world of the Paris Opera Ballet, Little Dancer is inspired by the young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and became, inadvertently, the most famous dancer in the world. Torn by her family’s poverty, her debt to the artist and the lure of wealthy men, Marie struggles to keep her place in the ballet corps—a girl on the verge of womanhood, caught between the conflicting demands of life and art.

Tickets available here


Behind the Curtain with Tiler Peck

Behind the Scenes with Tiler Peck

Go behind the scenes with New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck, the title role of Young Marie in the Kennedy Center's world premiere musical Little Dancer.

Courtesy of the Kennedy Center, producers of the musical Little Dancer

Audio and Video

Inside Look: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen
Audio, Released: February 10, 2015, (49:59 minutes)
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen
Video, Released: October 28, 2014, (1:20 minutes)
Press Event: Degas's Little Dancer
Audio, Released: September 30, 2014, (15:31 minutes)
"Four Dancers," c. 1899, Edgar Degas
Video, Released: November 1, 2011, (2:18 minutes)
The Sculpture of Edgar Degas at the National Gallery of Art: Launch of a Landmark Publication
Audio, Released: February 15, 2011, (79:07 minutes)
Edgar Degas Sculpture: The Systematic Catalogue
Audio, Released: January 11, 2011, (17:16 minutes)