The Dancing Class - Edgar Degas Postcard
The Dancing Class - This is the very first of Degas's innumerable scenes of ballet dancers going through their paces in the studios and rehearsal rooms of the Paris Opéra. Late in his life, when he looked again at these early pictures, Degas lamented that he no longer had the eyes for such exacting work. When he painted this small picture—for which there are many large study drawings—he did not yet have privileges to go backstage at the Opéra, then on the rue Le Peletier. In the late 1870s, Degas explained, "I have done [painted] so many of these dance examinations without having seen them that I am a little ashamed of it." The dancer at the centre of the composition is Joséphine Gaujelin (or Gozelin), whom Degas also portrayed in a stunning portrait. Here, she awaits the starting note from the ballet master. The watering can (to wet down the rosin on the floor), the top hat as music holder, and the empty violin case are accessories that the artist would continue to use to enliven his ballet pictures. Similarly, the poses that Degas established here would recur in his work until the end of his life. Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and depiction of human isolation.