Degas is passionate about dance. He spends much time watching the ballerinas on stage and backstage. He does not admire their body but their flexibility, which is the ease of their limbs to reach extreme angles either in action or at rest.
Inspired by Ingres, Degas was an very good draftsman. He rediscovered pastel as a technique allowing the more vivid colors without impairing the quality of the drawing. Like the pre-impressionists, Degas executed his works in his studio from previous sketches. His spontaneity is in fact the result of a long meticulous work, like Constable's.
The dancer on pointe, pastel and gouache made in 1877, shows a ballerina leaning forward, one leg above the horizontal in a movement for which no effort is apparent. Her imbalanced attitude and the empty space in front of her bring to this graphic work an illusion of motion that is unprecedented in the history of art. The delicacy of the colors anticipates Lautrec.
The young dancer takes the same position in the same colors but now leading a group of four in Danseuses en blanc, pastel and gouache on paper 53 x 65 cm for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 4, lot 32T estimated $ 18M. The four girls play a simultaneous dance step in a bold composition in which no body is seen in its entirety.
SOLD for $ 17M including premium
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's, also introducing the pastel of a nude offered in the same sale (also discussed in my column).