Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas
Le petit déjeuner après le bain (Le bain), ca. 1895–1898
Trois danseuses (jupes bleues, corsages rouges), ca. 1903
Le petit déjeuner après le bain (Le bain), ca. 1895–1898
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Edgar Degas
Le petit déjeuner après le bain (Le bain), ca. 1895–1898

Breakfast after the Bath (The Bath)
Pastel on paper on cardboard, 82.5 x 79 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

In his boudoir pictures Degas concentrated on the everyday, intimate gestures of women at their toilette. The pastel Breakfast after the Bath does not show Venus emerging from the sea on a shell, but an anonymous female figure seen from the rear as she climbs out of the bathtub. Just as the Impressionists found new ways of perceiving and depicting landscape, Degas shows the female figure from a new perspective. He captures the ephemeral moment in his use of colour, while his solid compositional structure ensures that the moment does not pass all too swiftly, but endures – to this very day.

Trois danseuses (jupes bleues, corsages rouges), ca. 1903
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Currently not on show

Edgar Degas
Trois danseuses (jupes bleues, corsages rouges), ca. 1903

Three Dancers (Blue Tutus, Red Bodices)
Pastel on paper on cardboard, 94 x 81 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Among the great treasures of the Beyeler Collection are two pastels from Degas’ late work: Three Dancers and Breakfast after the Bath. Their sophisticated composition and bold perspectives are as fascinating as his wonderful handling of colour and light. As far as draughtsmanship is concerned, Degas was an ‘Old Master’, but in his use of colour he was revolutionary with an avant-garde relish for experimentation. He remained somewhat aloof from the Impressionist circle and did not work out of doors – ‘sur le motif’ – but in the studio. His themes were ballet and the boudoir. As we see here, however, he was no longer interested in the academic pose, but in the complex sequences of the dancers’ movements. It is precisely the moment depicted in this scene, immediately before the dancer goes on stage, that quite possibly says more about the nature of dance than any image of its performance on stage.

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Edgar Degas

1834, Paris – 1917, Paris

Like most artists of his period, the French painter and sculptor trained his eye through studies of classical and early Renaissance works. In the 1850s, under the influence of his teacher Ingres, he painted mainly historical subjects and portraits. He became friends with Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and until 1886 participated regularly in the Impressionist exhibitions. For his subject matter he turned increasingly to scenes from contemporary life, painting – often from his own photographs – motifs from the world of opera, theatre and cabaret, from the racecourse and cafés or women at their toilette. He began painting almost entirely in pastels. After 1889, as his eyesight progressively worsened, he turned predominantly to three-dimensional work, modelling sculptures of horses, female nudes and dancers.

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