Degas was restless experimenter. In his depiction of a ballet rehearsal (for which Degas himself “rehearsed” with a number of preparatory drawings, and finished in three different versions) he is experimenting both with composition, as he frequently did, and with his materials — working over a pen and ink drawing on paper with thinned oil paint, pastel and a little bit of watercolor.
I love the depth he has given his composition, leading the eye from the back of the stage set through the groups of dancers and out to the tops of the cellos in the foreground, over which we are viewing the scene.
Though he is known primarily for his drawings in pastel, Degas’ graphite drawings are marvels of sensitive draftsmanship. His seemingly casual portrait of fellow artist Édouard Manet is one of my favorites.
Both works are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click the “Fullscreeen” link and then use th ezoom controls or download arrow for high resolution versions.
Today is Degas’ birthday.