Rehearsal on the Stage is an interesting ballet painting by Edgar Degas. Although he created several of pieces and studies in this theme, most of them were produced at a point of his career where he would be working towards an Impressionist style that soon became very evident in his brushstrokes and choice of palette. This painting stands out from the body of work produced at this time because, despite being a painting about ballet, it doesn’t have these Impressionist characteristics.
The most persuasive evidence that shows that this piece belongs much more to the Academic Art background of the artist is the color palette. The palette is dark and faded, unlike the vivid Impressionist samples. Another factor is that light and dark are worked with traditional shading techniques, and not with the complementary color.
The piece is very interesting for portraying a rehearsal instead of a spectacle. While Degas did plenty of studies of rehearsals and preparations in his career, most of them were profoundly Impressionist.
The piece shows a group of ballerinas dancing on the stage. They wear pearly white dresses and colored bands on their necks and waists. The master is guiding four ballerinas that are in the middle of the scene striking poses. Behind him, the other dancers prepare to get into the stage. One of them is pulling her hair back, emphasizing the fact that she is not ready for her moment yet. It’s possible to see different parts of the stage, and travelers are built with curtains and parts of the scenery. There is a structure on the back that resembles a swing or an arbor.
On the other side of the stage, two gentlemen sit on chairs watching the production. One of them is sitting on the chair backward, dressed in black clothes and wearing a top hat. The other one has a round figure and leans against the chair, very casual and relaxed. He wears a tuxedo opened, showing a lot of informality. The attitude of these gentlemen helps create an environment of loosening and mitigation. This is clearly not a spectacle being presented to the public. The wall behind them shows how majestic the place is. The columns are built in wood with beautiful bevels. It shows how big this stage. Could possibly be L’Opera, where many of Degas’ studies were produced.
This piece also presents an interesting choice of contrast between light and dark. The light comes from the front of the stage. However, the left part of the painting is brightened by the ballerina’s light-colored clothes. The right part of the painting that is mostly covered by elements of the stage is darker and shadier.
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