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Edgar Degas
Blue dancers. Circa 1898

The world of ballet is a favourite theme of Degas. Yet, unlike many of his contemporaries, the artist was attracted not by the colourful spectacle of the ballet itself, but the prose of life off-stage. Blue Dancers may be a sketch of one and the same dancer. Here she is tying up her ballet shoe, there adjusting her dress, examining her costume and standing in the wings. United on a single sheet these ordinary movements turn into a splendid dance: the magic of the theatre and the magic of painting are conjured up before our eyes. Thanks to the use of the pastel medium Degas achieves a remarkable richness of texture and colour combinations here. The small line-strokes are applied in different directions, merging into resonant streams of blue shadow or scattering as reflected light in the dancer's hair. The artist Maurice Denis who visited Moscow in 1909 and saw this pastel by Degas in Sergei Shchukin's private gallery at home had this to say about it: "There is a most superb, resonant and new blue Degas in the large drawing room."

Edgar Degas