348
348

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, U.S.A.

Edgar Degas
GROUPE DE QUATRE DANSEUSES
JUMP TO LOT
348

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, U.S.A.

Edgar Degas
GROUPE DE QUATRE DANSEUSES
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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London

Edgar Degas
1834 - 1917
GROUPE DE QUATRE DANSEUSES
inscribed Degas possibly by another hand (lower right)
charcoal on paper
61 by 48.2cm., 24 by 19in.
Executed circa 1905-08.
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Brame & Lorenceau has confirmed the authenticity of this work, it is now included in their archives of the artist.

Provenance

Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, New York (by descent from the above)
R. M. Thune, Greenwich, Connecticut
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1996

Catalogue Note

Groupe de Quatre Danseuses is a wonderful example of the theme that came to be the signature motif of Edgar Degas’ career. The artist’s lifelong interest in dancing developed in the 1860s when he regularly attended the ballet, opera and café-concerts. Degas was inspired by the informality of the dancers behind-the-scene, capturing the preparation and tension prior to performance or the more relaxed moments that followed. Degas paradoxically preferred to portray the art of ballet by stripping away the poetry and illusion achieved on stage and to explore the hard work, ennui, and more spontaneous beauty that occurs behind the curtain.

Degas’s fascination with the subject prompted him to create countless studies and finished works of dancers at rest or in motion, both on and off-stage, in a variety of media. In Groupe de Quatre Danseuses, the impromptu, unguarded moment of the girl bending down to tie her pointe shoes contrasts with the stylised positions of the two figures behind, who are elegantly practicing the classical movements. Degas was drawn to the ballet as a form of physical expression because of its ever-changing nature; the ideal subject matter for his obsession of rendering the human body in movement from every conceivable angle and level. Broadly and rapidly executed in charcoal, with the immediacy of a snapshot, this drawing encapsulates each dancer’s immersion in their individual preparation.

As an upper class Parisian, Degas was a member of an elite, all-male club called the abonnés, who enjoyed the privilege of having a free run of the performances at the Palais Garnier, including access to the backstage areas, which allowed him to record details of the dancers’ practices that were unseen by the general public. By the late 1870s and into the 1880s, he was well-known among the members of the company as he consorted, in the wings and classrooms, with some of the city’s poorest girls who were transformed into the fairies, nymphs and queens of the stage. He often sketched them while they stretched or collapsed with exhaustion. In his later years, he would invite dancers to his studio, making them pose for long periods of time and sometimes repositioning them in accordance with the eccentricities of his compositions. At the ballet, Degas found a world that excited both his taste for classical beauty and his eye for modern realism. No other painter of his time was able to present the exclusive atmosphere of ballet so compellingly or to imbue the often overlooked beauty and spontaneity of its informality.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

|
London