Aria after the Ballet
Edgar Degas ( French, 1834 - 1917 )
Aria After the Ballet, presented at the fourth impressionist exhibition in 1879, has all the drama typical of Edgar Degas's theater subjects. The dancers, but especially the singer at the left, are flooded with light projected from below. At lower right protrude the curving forms of the bass instruments, emerging like comic periscopes from the orchestra pit. Degas manipulated perspective and played with a disparity of scale: the stringed instruments appear to be the same height as the expressively posed opera singer to whom their "heads" turn, as if in rapt attention. Though the work was exhibited with the title Ballet de l'Africaine, a particular opera has not yet been identified.
This work reveals, too, Degas's attention to experimentation with various media. Rich pastel captures the radiant, shimmering effect of the costumes of the performers. In contrast, matte gouache defines the forested and mountainous scenery, thereby approximating the drab, sketchy painting of a stage backdrop. Plate marks just visible along the edges of the paper suggest that the pastel and gouache mask a monotype print, which provided the basis of the composition. A monotype of such an1979 unusually large size would have been an audacious experiment on the part of the artist.
Dorothy Kosinski, "Aria After the Ballet," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ _ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 107.