Far from traditional portraits or voyeuristic studies, Degas' dancers are in a canon of their own. Generally depicted away from the stage during informal moments, the dancers are often portrayed in contorted postures or from an unexpected vantage point. Degas firmly objected the classification as "the painter of dancing girls", explaining that his chief interest lay in rendering the dancer's movements rather than the women themselves, irregardless of whether they were elegantly poised or precariously balanced.
Degas managed to capture the world of the ballet so successfully that few painters have dared to revisit the theme since, and nowhere is his meticulous intensity more evident than in the preparatory studies. “No art is less spontaneous than mine. Everything I do is the outcome of long reflection, of my study of the masters and more besides. A matter of inspiration, temperament, dogged observation” (the artist quoted in Degas (exhibition catalogue), Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 1960, n.p.).
The 1934 sale of works on paper belonging to Jeanne Fèvre, the artist's niece, has furnished the collections of museums across the world, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to the National Gallery of Canada and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
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