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We seem to look down onto a shadowy stage with a ballerina and a dance instructor in this black and white work on paper. The man stands in the lower left corner of the composition wearing a knee-length jacket and resting his wrists on a tall stick in front of his body. Though his face and head are lost in deep shadow, it seems that he looks towards the ballerina to our right. Up on her toes en pointe, her body faces us but her arms are raised and angled towards the upper left corner of the composition. She turns her upper torso and head to gaze in the direction of her hands. Lighting comes from the front edge of the curving stage and illuminates the man’s pants and undersides of his arms, the dancer’s legs, tutu, and face, and the front part of the stage. The space behind the people is lost in shadow but is marked by brushstrokes and smudges. In the upper left corner the names of the artists are scratched onto the ink that had coated the surface of the printing plate: “Lepic” and “Degas.”

Edgar Degas, Vicomte Ludovic Lepic, The Ballet Master, c. 1876, monotype (black ink) heightened and corrected with white chalk or wash on laid paper, Rosenwald Collection, 1964.8.1782

Introduction to the Exhibition: Degas at the Opéra

  • Sunday, March 8, 2020
  • 2:00 p.m.
  • East Building Auditorium

Kimberly A. Jones, curator of 19th-century French paintings, National Gallery of Art

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) is celebrated as the painter of dancers, a subject that dominated his art for nearly four decades. An exuberant display of rich imagination and keen observation, his renowned images of the Paris Opéra are among the most sophisticated and visually compelling works he created. Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Opéra’s founding, Degas at the Opéra presents approximately 100 of the artist’s best-known and beloved works in a range of media, including paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculpture. Organized with the Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie, Paris, the exhibition is on view at the National Gallery of Art from March 1 through July 5, 2020. On opening day, curator Kimberly Jones shares insights on the exhibition, the first to explore Degas’s enduring fascination with the Opéra.

A signing of the exhibition catalog follows.