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Degas and the Ballet

Picturing Movement

17 September — 11 December 2011

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This landmark exhibition focuses on Edgar Degas’s preoccupation with movement as an artist of the dance, tracing the development of the artist’s ballet imagery throughout his career.

This exhibition is the first to present Degas’s progressive engagement with the figure in movement in the context of parallel advances in photography and early film; indeed, the artist was keenly aware of these technological developments and often directly involved with them.

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement comprises around 85 paintings, sculptures, pastels, drawings, prints and photographs by Degas, as well as photographs by his contemporaries and examples of early film. It brings together selected material from public institutions and private collections in Europe and North America including both celebrated and little-known works by Degas.

Highlights of the exhibition include such masterpieces as the celebrated sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1880-81, cast. c.1922, Tate, London), which will be displayed with a group of outstanding preparatory drawings that together show the artist tracking around his subject like a cinematic eye; Dancer Posing for a Photograph (1875, Pushkin State Museum of Art, Moscow); Dancer on Pointe (c. 1877-78, Private collection); The Dance Lesson (c. 1879, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); Dancers in a Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass (c. 1882-85, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); and Three Dancers (c. 1903, Beyeler Foundation, Basel).

The exhibition explores the fascinating links between Degas’s highly original way of viewing and recording the dance and the inventive experiments being made at the same time in photography by Jules-Etienne Marey and Eadweard Muybridge and in film-making by such pioneers as the Lumière brothers. By presenting the artist in this context, the exhibition will demonstrate that Degas was far more than merely the creator of beautiful images of the ballet, but instead a modern, radical artist who thought profoundly about visual problems and was fully attuned to the technological developments of his time.

17 September — 11 December 2011

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm

Main Galleries, Burlington Gardens

This exhibition has now closed.