A young ballet dancer bends forward to massage her foot, while her somberly dressed older companion sits silently beside her on a bench. They appear to be waiting, perhaps for an audition or itsoutcome. The two figures are a study in contrasts: The athletic dancer dressed in a dazzling costume reflects the glamour and artifice of the stage, while the shabbily dressed, bent figure represents thedrabness of everyday life.
Edgar Degas painted modern life; his subjects, including laundresses, milliners, nightclub singers, horse races, and the ballet, reflected contemporary Parisianoccupations and diversions. From the 1860s onward, Degas frequented the Paris Opéra, where he made numerous studies of performances, rehearsals, and backstage scenes. Later, he would refine and combine thesemotifs in his studio, in exercises of daring technical skill and compelling psychological subtlety. Here he demonstrated his complete mastery of the pastel technique. Delicately blended strokes arecombined with bold hatching and emphatic slashes; pink, blue, and creamy tones describe the dancer in contrast to the dark, severe form of the older woman.http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=829
now the vast majority of his dance images in both oil and pastel alluded, in the broadest sense, to the wings, an un complicated physical space that could be re-createdat will with screens and other props, and subsequently animated with a hand-picked cast and rainbow-colored costumes.
"marvelous works of precision and memory, of perspicacity and reverie,"according to the critic Gustave Geffroy.
THEe bizarre conse quences of this tendency are particularly evident in discussions of his dance works, which first appeared when Degas was a virtually unknownartist in the i 86os and con tinued as a major preoccupation until the end of his working life around I9 I .
all animated by a comparably rhythmic play of heads, torsos, and limbs