Degas: Where Lines and Dots Come from Memories

Artlytics Org
2 min readMar 8, 2021


埃德加·德加(Edgar Degas)(1834–1917),印象派画家、雕塑家。虽然德加被归为印象派,但他本人更愿意视自己为写实主义。印象派的精髓在于捕捉瞬间的颜色和光影,因而要求短时绘画的能力。但德加通常会在经过无数次观察后,记录笔记,而后凭借记忆作画。

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) is known as an impressionist painter and sculptor. Although Degas is classified as an impressionist, he prefers to regard himself as realism. The essence of impressionism is to capture the color and light of every moment, and it requires the ability to paint in a fairly short time. But Degas’s approach is to take notes after countless observations and then connect the dots based on memory.

The Ballet Class, Edgar Degas, 1871–1874, Oil on canvas, 85cm x 75cm, Musee d’Orsay, Paris


Ballerina is one of many subjects that Degas is very fond of. He has painted many paintings on this theme, and “The Ballet Class” is the most famous one. In the painting, the teacher is instructing the ballet dancer in the center of the picture, while other students are resting aside, some are adjusting their costumes, some are whispering, some are in a daze, some are tickling, some are biting their nails… the picture is so real and natural as if Degas was a member of the dance room and saw this scene with his own eyes. But in fact, everything in the picture was arranged by him with notes and memories. It is precise because of his superb creativity, layout ability, and free use of lines and compositional space that make him become one of the greatest artists.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878–1881, National Gallery of Art


What’s sad is that since the 1880s, Degas’s eyesight began to decline, so he turned to sculptures, crayon drawings, and other artistic creations that did not require high eyesight.