EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

Danseuse rajustant son chausson

Details
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
Danseuse rajustant son chausson
signed 'Degas' (lower right)
pastel on paper
18 3/4 x 24 3/4 in. (47.6 x 62.6 cm.)
Drawn circa 1887
Provenance
Albert Besnard, Paris.
Myron C. Barlow, Etaples and Detroit.
Albert and Ernestine Kahn, Detroit (possibly acquired from the above, 1929).
Lydia Winston Malbin, New York and Detroit (gift from the above, 1949); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 17 May 1990, lot 117.
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection, United States (acquired from the above, 1992).
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 2001).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 6 February 2002.
Literature
P. Brame and T. Reff, Degas et son œuvre: A Supplement, New York, 1984, p. 136, no. 125 (illustrated, p. 137).
Exhibited
Bloomfield Hills, Museum of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Light and the Painter, September 1952, p. 28, no. 22 (illustrated on the frontispiece; titled Danseuse).
Detroit Institute of Arts, French Drawings and Water Colors from Michigan Collections, January-February 1962, pp. 11 and 14, no. 51 (illustrated, p. 14).
Detroit Institute of Arts, Selections from the Lydia and Harry Lewis Winston Collection, July 1972-April 1973.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

No artist is so closely associated with the ballet as the Impressionist painter Edgar Degas. In the early 1870s, Degas began to frequent the Parisian Opéra, observing young ballerinas rehearsing in dance classes, waiting in the wings, or performing on stage. He produced a large, wide-ranging series of dynamic, multi-figural oil paintings, pastel drawings, and monotype prints. By the 1880s, Degas began to isolate small groups or individual dancers for closer observation, sketching these figure studies in paint, pencil, chalk and especially pastel. In his 1887 work, Danseuse rajustant son chausson—produced a year after the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in Paris—Degas depicted the taut, muscular body and voluminous silk tutu of a ballerina as she leans forward to adjust the ribbon of her slipper.
The casual gesture represented in Danseuse rajustant son chausson was, in fact, far from simple. The dancer’s body is folded nearly in half as she reaches toward her left ankle. Her feet are set wide apart, with her toes and bent knees turned outwards. It appears as if she has just performed a plié in the balletic second position, but that she quickly broke from the pose when she noticed the loose ribbon on her shoe. Her contorted movement is similar to those in other pastels that Degas produced during the same period; his dancers regularly lean, yawn, stretch, fix their hair, fluff their skirts, tug at their sleeves, or pull up their stockings.
Just as the dancer worked to alter her costume, so too did Degas routinely rearrange and redraw his figures. In the present sheet, for example, Degas changed the position of the dancer’s right foot, narrowing the gap between her legs. The art historian Carol Armstrong has drawn a connection between the frequent, repetitive gestures of the dancers in Degas’s work to the artist’s own obsessive drawing practice: “His dancers are likewise preoccupied, consistently involved with shoe ties and shoulder straps. Constantly correcting articles of dress that have come undone, perpetually irritated with their clothing, they repeatedly call attention to a thematics of dressing and undressing. It is clear that critics…thought that these indications of dancers’ déshabillé also constituted a theme of impropriety” (Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas, Chicago, 1991, p. 54).
There is undoubtedly an element of voyeurism in Degas’s careful observation and recording of young, strong athletic figures, such as the ballerina depicted in Danseuse rajustant son chausson. This dancer is fully absorbed in her experience of her own body and costume, totally unselfconscious and unaware of the artist’s gaze upon her shapely limbs and exposed back. Degas also famously explored this theme in his pastel bather series, which he began around the same time. Similarly fascinated by the banal gestures of anonymous female nudes washing, scrubbing, toweling and brushing, Degas dedicated almost as many sheets to that subject.
Danseuse rajustant son chausson also demonstrates how Degas earned his rightful reputation as a master of line. He was capable of conveying ephemeral, acrobatic movements, as well as the variable textures of hair, skin and silk, with a flurry of confident strokes. Though undeniably a brilliant draftsman, Degas was simultaneously an exquisite colorist. Skeins of moss green, turquoise and violet form the shadows surrounding the dancer’s body, as well as the topography of her spine and shoulder blades; bursts of bright white describe the sheen of her bodice and slippers, as well as the pleats of her tutu. Pastel enabled Degas to explore the formal properties of both color and line simultaneously upon the page. For this reason, pastel was undoubtedly his preferred tool; he produced over seven hundred sheets in varying degrees of finish, more than any other medium in his oeuvre.
Danseuse rajustant son chausson belonged to several prominent figures in the twentieth century. Albert Besnard was a French painter who studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with the Academic painter Alexandre Cabanel and later served as the Director of the Académie de France in Rome. Besnard developed a fashionable portraiture practice and, like his contemporary Degas, experimented with various forms of draftsmanship and printmaking throughout his career. The present drawing subsequently passed through several esteemed American collections. The famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn, who designed the first industrial complexes for the Ford Motor Company in the early twentieth century, purchased this sheet in 1929. Kahn likely installed Danseuse rajustant son chausson in the new gallery addition to his English Renaissance style home in downtown Detroit, which he built to accommodate his burgeoning collection of Impressionist paintings and drawings. After Albert’s death in 1942, his wife Ernestine gifted this pastel to one of their daughters, Lydia Kahn Winston Malbin. Lydia went on to build her own remarkable collection of modern and contemporary art over the course of the next fifty years. Her estate was sold at auction following her death in 1989 at the age of 91.

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