About the Artist
Though he preferred to be called a realist, Edgar Degas (1834–1917) was one of the founders of impressionism, an organizer of the group's exhibitions, and one of its most important core members. He shared with the impressionists an interest in modern life—in Paris' dance halls and cabarets, its racetracks, its opera and ballet stages. But his work was deliberate and controlled, painted in the studio from sketches, notes, and memory. In racehorses and ballet dancers he found the kind of movement that fascinated him most: not free and spontaneous, but precise and disciplined.
This print of Edgar Degas' The Dance Lesson (1879) is part of our Masterworks collection of reproductions, specially created using the Gallery's finest quality digital imaging.
Degas's best-known works are those inspired by the ballet. For an artist committed to the depiction of modern life, the theater in all of its forms—the ballet, the opera, even the more raucous café-concerts—held a special appeal. What intrigued him the most, however, was not the formal, polished performance, but rather the behind-the-scenes, casual, candid moments of dancers rehearsing or resting.
The Dance Lesson (1879) is the first ballet scene in a distinctive group of some 40 pictures, all executed in an unusual horizontal format. This format, which has been likened to a frieze, has a decidedly decorative quality. Degas's fascination with the unexpected views and flattened forms of Japanese prints is also apparent: figures are sharply cropped and placed off center while the floor, which dominates the scene, seems tipped upward, an illusion that is accentuated by the elongated format.
- 4.38 x 10.13 inches (print), 11 x 14 inches (matted)
- Matted, ready to frame
- Archival, premium matte paper (acid-free, lignin-free)
- Archival pigment inks