Ballet on Display at The Phillips Collection

December 08, 2011 | Pursuits


Dancers In Rose by Edgar Degas

Throughout his career, Edgar Degas was drawn to ballet—to the dancers, the positions, the music, and the relentless pursuit of grace and skill. So enthralled was the artist that he produced more than 1,500 works on the subject, culminating in a masterwork: a beautiful blue-and-orange oil painting of two ballerinas entitled Dancers at the Barre, a permanent part of The Phillips Collection. Influenced by the compelling picture, as well as by Degas’s well-documented obsession with the dance form, the Phillips unveiled "Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint," which has proved immensely popular. The exhibit is centered around the iconic work and encompasses 30 related pieces of art, from bronze sculptures to freehand sketches and stunning oils and pastels—as demonstrated here with Dancers in Rose.

Degas experimented with portraying the dancers’ poses, repeating and refining them over and over again and often exploring them across several works. For example, the position of the dancers, with their arms raised, in Dancers in Rose is a familiar study of Degas’s, who loved to visually intertwine the physique of a ballet dancer and the concept of balance and poise. The group of costumed dancers, captured from just offstage, is lush with color and synchronicity, drawn from the perspective of an artist deeply enamored with one of the most sublime forms of creative expression. As a whole, Point and Counterpoint is a definitive homage to one of the most celebrated Impressionist painters in history. "Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint" runs through January 8, 2012; tickets are $12. The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW

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