The painting I've chosen is The Star (also called Dancer on stage) by Edgar Degas. It was painted in 1876 and it was first exhibited in 1877 in the "Troisième exposition impressioniste" in Paris. In 1894 Gustave Caillebotte bought it, and then in 1896 it was presented to the Museum of Luxembourg. In 1929 it was exhibited in the Louvre Museum. Nowadays, this painting is exhibited in the Orsay Museum. L'étoile is painted on pastel on cardboard and its dimensions are 58x42 cm. Degas painted a lot of paintings where dancers were the central topic, due to his love of exploring the movement. He painted also many racecourses. There is a long series of paintings of dancers made by Degas.
The painting shows a ballet dancer on stage. The central figure of the painting is a dancer. She is standing up in a first arabesque position, looking to the crowd. We can perceive that she is with her eyes closed and she's smiling. Next to the main dancer we can see the set, which represents a forest. Behind the set, there are more dancers. The set is divided into three parts: the first one closer to the dancer. Behind it we can distinguish a man wearing a black suit, so it’s probable that the ballet is ending and this man is there to welcome the viewers. Behind him there is also another dancer wearing a yellow tutu. Behind them we can only perceive another dancer’s tutu and legs. In the background of the scene there is another dancer doing a demi-plié. And at the top of the painting we can appreciate the end of the set. It seems to be the sky with a lot of clouds.
The Star is one of Degas’ more famous paintings. It captures the dancer so vividly, as if she was really dancing at that moment. In 1880 Joris Karl Hysmal said about The Star “When your eyes are trained on these leaping figures, the illusion becomes so complete that they all come to life and gasp for breath”. This has an explanation: Degas was so good creating the illusion of movement that his dancers give the impression of true movement, and this is demonstrated in The Star.
This is also another painting by Degas, called The dancer with a bouquet of flowers.
Degas was really focused on painting ballet dancers. In 1870 he was experiencing a new technique, the pastel. He used pastel in order to render the vaporous quality of the dancers’ tutu. In The Star, there is a contrast between areas that have been quickly colored with others that are meticulously finished. Some particular areas, such as the leg and neck of the dancer, are balanced with darker areas, such as the man on the left and the dancer’s ribbon. All these effects create a fantastic reality.
The Green Dancer is a good example of the use of pastel for the best representation of the tutu.
Degas painted more rehearsals than performances. The only difference between rehearsals and performances is the different use of light. On stage, the light is bright and harsh, casting sharp shadows and blurring the dancer’s face. In rehearsals, the light is filtered in through windows to create a soft twilight, with flickering shadow.
Dance class at the opera.
The Star captures the joy of dance really well. The ballet dancer’s smile, her eyes closed, the way her arms are opened looking at the crowd, all these things transmit that she is really enjoying what she’s doing. For the dancer only she and the dance exist at this moment. Also the way she’s opening her arms makes us think that she’s calling us, inviting us to join her and the music.
One interesting piece of information about this painting is the man on the left side, behind the set. The lowly state of the ballet allow Degas to capture the reality of the dancer’s working life. One phenomenon of the ballet world that fascinated him was the presence of a number of in top hats and fur-collared overcoats who were permitted to pay court to the dancer in the foyer de la danse. They were around the dancers, like predators, trying to “hunt” dancers
People think that Degas loved dancers, due to the beautiful paintings he painted about them, but this wasn’t really true: for him they were only interesting models, like lab rats, like the horses in his other paintings. He wasn’t interested in capturing the dancers’ on stage prettiness. He only wanted to portray his “little monkey girls” under stress, at the barre with their muscles in agony, their feet raw and bleeding. Degas said once time “I have perhaps too often considered woman as an animal” “Women can never forgive me; they hate me, they can feel that I’m disarming them. I show them without their coquetry, in the state of animal cleaning themselves”
Degas is considered to be one of the masters of modern art in the late 19th century. Degas stands out for his innovation, skill and talent of perception. Degas set himself apart from the Impressionist movement of his time. He drew inspiration from Ingres, a French new-classicist painter, whom he considered one of his masters.
Although he was an Impressionist painter, Degas preferred his own methods of painting. He was one of the minority painters of this time who didn't paint in the open air. He worked in his studio, because he wasn’t interested in the study of natural light that fascinated the Impressionists. The common subjects of his works were dancers and racecourses, but in the mid1870s he also started painting women having a bath, drying or combing their hair.
The False Start
After the Bath Woman Drying her feet
Breakfast after the Bath
In my opinion this painting of Degas is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen. It transmits the sensation of pure joy of the dancer really well. I also love this painting for the way of painting and using the colors. But doing this project I’ve learned many things about Degas, and they didn’t please me. I’ve read very ugly things about him and his way of thinking about women, I’m so disappointed about this painter, his paintings are really beautiful, but they way he considered women is so disgusting.