Methods

Degas frequentlysketched live models over and over again, famously declaring, "No art is less spontaneous than mine.”To artists, he said, "For a portrait, have your model pose on the first floor and work upstairs to accustom yourself to retaining forms and expressions.” Degas felt an artist should know his subject profoundly enough that he could work solely from memory.Degas was in the vanguard of portraying bodies in motion. In the 1870s, Degas was fascinated by Muybridge’s photo series of racehorses. In response, Degas began creating portrayals of horses in motion. Degas was keen on capturing the in-between moments in motion, the natural pauses, or momentary gestures, where he felt some greater truth of human nature was revealed.

Edgar Degas, Singer with a Glove, c. 1860

Edgar Degas, Singer with a Glove, c. 1878, pastel on paper, mounted on canvas, 53.2 x 41 cm, Fogg Art Museum

Edgar Degas, Racehorses at Longchamp

Edgar Degas, Racehorses at Longchamp, 1871-1874, oil on canvas, 34 x 41.9 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Degas experimented with photography as well as new media in sculpture and printing. In the second half of his career,Degas became a master of the monotype. These were single prints of ink or paint on a plate that he then worked on top of with pencil or essence. In sculpture he experimented with unconventional materials, creating his famous Little Dancer with wood, sawdust, wire, batting, and wax. Degas then dressed Little Dancerin real tulle, velvet ribbon, and human hair. The exhibition of Little Dancer at the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition caused a stir among critics, and Degas' realism shocked viewers.

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer (Fourteen Years Old)

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer (Fourteen Years Old), 1879-1881, wax and bronze reproduction, 48 in. high, National Gallery of Art, US

Edgar Degas, Blue Dancers, 1893-1896

Edgar Degas, Blue Dancers, 1893-1896, oil on canvas, 85.3 x 75.3 cm, Musée d'Orsay