Formal Analysis of Edgar Degas' Ballet Rehearsal (circa 1874)
Energy in movement and quiet placidity seen from the eyes of a fly on the wall. Edgar Degas' Ballet Rehearsal, 1874 oil on canvas is twenty three inches by thirty three inches (Honour et al. 2005). The painting utilizes a sophisticated pallet and whimsical impressionist painting style to enchant its viewer. One of a series examining dancers, the painting of ballet students in rehearsal conveys Degas' knowledge and fascination with the human form as well as his mastery of formal elements of art. The configuration of the art work ponders a contrast between background and foreground utilizing dualities such as light and dark, energy and serenity, and clarity to obscurity. Line and space pulls the audience's attention across the entirety of the composition. The impressionistic style successfully captures a moment in time, saturated with chaotic elements caught un-posed and half seen, as they are in real life. Ballet Rehearsal's composition successfully blends line, color, light, shadow, and space in order to build an impressive example of visual art.
Arranged in the background of the composition are a group of dancers performing arabesques. The dancers, "go through back breaking work-outs at the bar or squat, breathless with fatigue, their features sagging, muscles bulging as their bodies graciously , with legs sprawling wide apart, totally devoid of erotic or any other charm." (Honour et al. 2005). Large windows on the far wall allow light to break through and spill onto the wooden floor and a figure, perhaps a teacher, waits and watches from the back right corner of the field of view. A dominant spiral staircase tucked in the extreme left of the foreground partially obscures the row of dancers behind it. To the right a group of resting dancers sit quiet in their placid corner of the work. Degas rigorously structures his painting with strong diagonals and symmetries, the chaos of the scene...
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