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The artist's biography
Degas (Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas) 1834-1917. Dancers in blue, pastel painting, 1899.
When he painted this pastel painting, Degas, who had already been suffering from an eye infection for several years, was practically blind. The blinder he became, the more his paintings were filled with light. The signs gradually disappear and give way to yellows, oranges, pinks and blues that take over the figures’ contours and illuminate the space with colour.
Degas is at the opera, behind and in front of the curtain, during and after the rehearsals, closely observing and sketching instruments and musicians, tutus and ballerinas. He then captures them through the filter of his imagination and memory in a series of countless drawings and sketches, in pastel and tempera paintings, accumulating sheet after sheet, tracing after tracing and oil after oil, culminating in what is essential: blending into a sort of eternal game of truth, reality and fiction.
Degas loves to depict things from all angles, moving around to get a swooping view or a view from below, learning how to recall such and such a shape or movement before they fade away. He chooses all possible angles without ever giving in to the weakness of painting directly.
“All Degas’ work is serious. At times it appeared so pleasing and cheerful, his crayon, pastel and brush never letting go. His willpower dominates”. Paul Valéry.
Regards sur la peinture (Facets of painting), published by Fabbri, 1988.