Edgar Degas, Dancers Practising at the Barre, a study in oil paint on green paper

France, AD 1876-77

A study of a popular motif in Degas' work

During his lifetime Degas (1834-1917) depicted many scenes from the ballet. He began studying dancers in the 1870s and, along with female nudes, they were to become a principal motif in his work.

Degas frequently visited the back stage and public areas of the Opéra building in Paris where the ballet was performed. However, he rarely actually made his studies there, preferring instead to draw in his studio from posed models or memory. Although Degas tended to depict scenes from backstage and the wings of the theatre, through his studies, pastels, paintings and sculptures, he created a detailed picture of both the glamour of the performance and the more sordid reality of the dancers' backstage life.

Degas was a magnificent draughtsman. He experimented with media and developed a technique called peintre à l'essence, which he used for this drawing and Woman with Field-glasses. This is coloured pigment from which the oil has been extracted and which has been thinned with turpentine to enable it to dry quickly.

This drawing is one of twenty chosen by Degas himself to reproduce in the album Degas: vingt dessins 1861-96. It is usually dated to about 1876-77 and shows the same motif as the painting Dancers Practising at the Barre (1876-77, Metropolitan Museum, New York).

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More information


R. Kendall, Degas: images of women, exh. cat. (Tate Gallery, Liverpool, 1989)

, Degas, exh. cat. (Paris, Ottawa and New York, 1988)


Height: 47.200 cm
Width: 62.500 cm

Museum number

PD 1968-2-10-25


Bequeathed by César Mange de Hauke


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