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Degas at the Opéra: Introductory Slide Overview

 Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer, National Gallery of Art

Edgar Degas was fascinated by music, opera, and ballet throughout his long career. He was a regular attendee at the old Paris Opéra house on the Rue Le Peletier through his early career, and then at the Garnier Opéra after its opening in 1875. Degas explored every aspect of the world of the opera—from rehearsals to performances, from the practice rooms to the stage. Yet his many paintings of the rehearsal rooms and the operas were never done on the spot; they were the product of his careful study of the ballerinas, singers, and musicians posed in his studio. The leader of the avant-garde group known as the impressionists, Degas always asserted that nothing was less spontaneous than his art. He kept volumes of drawings of figures, from every conceivable angle, that he would return to time and again for compositions throughout his career. He was interested in the body in motion and at rest, often in characteristic (if awkward) positions. Toward the end of his life, when his sight began to fail, Degas substituted brilliant color for the precise draftsmanship of his earlier work. To celebrate the exhibition, on March 13, 2020, Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer, National Gallery of Art, provides an overview of the exhibition.