Hilaire-Germain- Edgar Degas


The three studies on this sheet depict the teenage dancer Marie van Goethem and were produced in preparation for Degas’s celebrated wax sculpture Little Dancer, Fourteen Years Old (National Gallery, Washington, DC). When that work was shown at the sixth Impressionist exhibition of 1881, the artist’s inclusion of a wig and a fabric bodice and skirt caused a sensation. Degas made numerous studies of Marie between 1878 and 1880. Here he portrayed her from three different angles, attempting to understand the figure in the round in preparation for sculpting it. As the chalk strokes show, her foreshortened left foot posed a problem when seen from behind, as did her bent arms in profile.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
French; 1834–1917
Three Studies of a Dancer, ca. 1880
Black, pink, and white pastel on light brown paper