Edgar Degas - Russian Dancers 1899

Russian Dancers 1899
Russian Dancers
1899 pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard
Private Collection

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In this pastel, Degas celebrates the rambunctious abandon, bright colors, and elaborate folk costumes of Ukrainian peasant dancers, very much in contrast to the ethereal ballerinas for which he is famous. To Degas, the Russian peasants embodied the primitive and visceral human urge to dance. He captured this exuberance by applying layers of pure color on paper, artfully combining the immediacy of drawing with the vibrancy of painting.