Ballet Dancers

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The dancers in Degas’s painting are clouded in a mist of tulle, but two striking heads of red hair seem to anchor the blurred forms moving in space. Arms and legs curve and stretch, delicate white skirts toss and sway. The white tutus depicted here are the practice dress worn by the younger dancers at the Paris Opéra in the late nineteenth century. Since they were small children, the dancers would have trained daily in the steps and positions that are the vocabulary of classical ballet, performing them over and over again. Degas repeats these characteristic movements in many of his pictures, perhaps not entirely for aesthetic reasons: repetition is exactly what the dancers do. This also seems connected to his own committed work ethic – he practised his craft tirelessly, making countless preparatory studies for every painting.

The National Gallery, London



Ballet Dancers


about 1890-1900


Oil on canvas


H 72.5 x W 73 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1926

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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