Edgar Hillaire Degas (French, 1834-1917)The Tub, 1886

Edgar Hillaire Degas
(French, 1834 – 1917)

Edgar Hillaire Degas (French, 1834-1917)Dancers in Pink, c. 1876

Degas so favored the ballet that he created about 1,500 works in a variety of media depicting all aspects of dance—preparation, rehearsal, waiting in the wings, as in Dancers in Pink, c. 1876, and the performance, itself. The then-burgeoning art of photography, with images conveying a sense of immediacy, influenced the artist’s choice of subject matter and composition. Dancers in Pink draws the viewer backstage, catching one’s eye with a central bright spot of paint representing a dancer’s earring.

The Tub, 1886, is the finest Degas in the collection and Alfred Pope’s last Impressionist acquisition in 1907. Degas created the drawing for the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in Paris, where it was featured with approximately 12 other works in the Salon de Nude. Notable for its size and high degree of finish, the work has an unusually elevated perspective that allows the viewer to voyeuristically steal a glimpse, as if through a keyhole, of the intimate, everyday scene of a woman bathing. The colors are rich and luminescent, creating an effect that Renoir once described as having the “freshness of fresco.”

Edgar Hillaire Degas (French, 1834-1917)Jockeys, 1886

With Jockeys, 1886, Degas imitated compositional devices found in the Japanese woodblock prints he admired and collected. The pastel’s horizontal orientation was also inspired by Japanese art. The theme of horse and rider appears at two different periods in Degas’ career. In the 1860s, he focused on the action of the racecourse; in the 1880s, his subject was one of aesthetic contemplation.