Dancers in the Wings
The title of the painting is the Dancers in the Wings by the artist Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917). He was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing (Gordon, p. 276). Edgar Degas is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. He completed the paint of Dancers in the wings in 1900.
Impressionism Style was applied by the artist in the painting of the Ballet Dancers in the Wings Ballet. This work of art is a vintage impressionist fine art painting featuring two ballerinas in the wings ready to go on stage and perform their dance routine (Gordon, p. 276). The media of this painting is pastel, gouache, distemper, and “essence” on paper, mounted on board with the dimensions of 27¼ × 19¾” (69.2 × 50.2 cm.). This pastel illustrates the artist’s innovative techniques and distinctive style. He has used a variety of media, but the most striking is his virtuoso use of pastel to achieve luminous colors and diaphanous textures. Degas is an impressionist painter, using the soft brush strokes, and the combination of complimentary colors (Gordon, p. 276)
The content of the “Dancers in the wings” is two dancers who appear to be awaiting their on stage appearance. In neither figure do we see a full portrait of the dancer. The dancer in the foreground is placed at the edge of the painting so that we literally see only one half of her frontal view. The dancer in the background actually becomes the focus of the picture even though she too is not fully portrayed. She is instead partially hidden from view by the first dancer. (Gordon, p. 276)
Degas’s choice of subject matter reflects his modern approach where he favored scenes of ballet dancers. Degas was intrigued with the ballet as subject matter, and quite often with the performers behind the scenes. Degas in this art work is especially identified with the subject of the dance behind scenes.
When the thought of a ballet dancer crosses my mind I get the picture of light, airy scenes with dancers full of energy. Despite the jeopardy of seeming chauvinistic, I initially imagine of ballerinas who are feminine and that come out as very delicate. In this painting however, Degas does not depict the feminine daintiness the ballet dancer possesses (Gordon, p. 276). He unveils to the viewer the authentic person rather than the false impression seen on stage. The two dancers are preparing themselves for the job they have do on entering the stage.
These are women at work not petite dancers as portrayed on stage. They appear to be thinking seriously about their parts in the dance. The woman in the backdrop leans on a behind the scenes prop as she fits her shoe (Gordon, p. 276). She stares at the plain wall bringing out a sense that she is deep in thoughts. The sense is further upheld by the lady in the forefront who has only one of her eyes visible and the eye is faintly drooped hence enhancing the sense that both dancers have something in mind.
The content of this work of art is not of young ballerina dancers performing just for the thrill of being on stage but is of ladies that perform the dance as a profession. According to their point of vie stage is their area of work. They earn money by performing as rehearsed earlier on hence the reason why Degas portrays the two dancers as women in deep thoughts as they go over their choreographed parts (Gordon, p. 276).
Degas aim is that the viewer focuses on the girl in next to backdrop in the backstage. This is because almost each and every single line in the portrait points at her. The stage prop grows fainter at the back and vanish somewhere outside the work of art (Gordon, p. 276). The lines of the prop have two functions. First, they add outlook to the painting, bring out a sense of depth to the viewer. Secondly, the lines serve the purpose of drawing the viewers’ attention to the girl in the background. The dress lines of the forefront dancer also point at the performer in the background and even the flowers set on her head are placed in a way that they also point out to the dancer who now appears to be the main focal point as based on the number of lines pointing to her (Gordon, p. 276).
Whereas some of the lines on the dress of the dancer in the foreground are broken by lines pointing to the dancer in the background, the lines on the woman in the background point back to herself without interruption. These lines on the dancer in the background serve to draw all attention to her. In addition, her arms are stretched in straight planes forming lines that point back to her body (Gordon, p. 276).
The focal point for the painting is also enhanced by the shape of the girl in the backdrop. Degas uses sharp disparity of complementary colors to make her shape outstanding from the rest of the painting (Gordon, p. 276) . The contrast creates attention making the viewer to focus on the girl in the pink dress. His choice of bright and more feminine colors also causes the one to focus on the woman in the background because all other colors in the painting are darker hence the pink dress stands out.
In the paintings the use of colors helps set the mood of the setting. Degas use of darker colors in the frame helps give the sense of exhaustion rather than enthusiasm and hope (Gordon, p. 276). The bright colors used on the girl in the background of Degas’ painting envisage the dazzling and brisk show to come, but does not alter the in general tired mood of the painting. The dancer’s bent position, holding onto the theater prop for support, and her thoughtful look takes away any possibility of inferring the general mood bright and cheerful.
In Degas’ painting the viewer’s eye is at the same level with the contents of the painting. This creates a feeling that one is on stage with the dancers and creates emotion that the scene is occurring now. This makes one anticipate the live performance with this anticipation being brought out as real by the genuine emotions of the performers who look weary yet prepared to perform. The thoughtful look in their eyes portrays both exhaustion and the essence of rehearsing their parts before the actual performance. As this is a performance about to happen the painting creates a sense of anticipation.
Gordon R. et al (1988). Degas. Abradale Press, New York