Twenty-Two

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Danseuses bleues

c1893 by Edgar Degas
Musée d’Orsay

When thinking of Impressionism, it is perhaps hard not to think of Degas; what better way to indulge the Impressionist obsession with movement of colour and light than in the skirts of dancers. In much the same way that Whistler adopted Nocturnes in black and grey, drawing our attention to the deliberate focus on colour, Degas does the same here. He names his dancers blue and colours them so, dazzling us with the sheer luminosity of their skirts; they are a blur of warm indigo, rustling in their undefined daubs. In the background Degas has particularly taken advantage of Impressionist style; we are given a glittering backdrop of the twinkling glow of stage lights, overlapped with intermittent green shadows that make up the allure of backstage half-light. It is completely atmospheric, and a welcome change of manipulation of style; a contrast to the usual Impressionist dapple of natural sunlight, this is the un-natural, but rather wonderful, blaze of the theatre underworld.

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