Edgar Degas’ Four Dancers (1899) on a canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The composition accentuates the shapes and arms of the dancers with bold dark lines in dramatic lighting on the dancers through green and orange tones. The reflection of color on the dancers’ backs is juxtaposed with that of the set design’s painted background. Notably, the dancer nearest to the front of the painting makes a “trapezoid” shape with her lifted arms. The two dancers next to her are perfecting other versions of the same angle of the arms. Oddly, each dancer is drawn in an almost perfectly symmetrical manner as if they are permutation of the same person. They all appear to be of the same size as well. The dancer behind them has an extended arm, which helps to frame the other dancers by creating a rectangular frame, encasing the dancers in the painting and bringing together all the elements of the painting as a whole.
A puzzling aspect of the work is the repetitive nature of the three ballet dancers in the foreground; their standing side by side in a line underscores their similarity of pose and gesture. What are the consequences of the defining and prevalent differences created for each dancer? To answer this question, it will be important to consider the appearance of each dancer and each action, especially the meaning of their ballet performance. This analysis is important to consider because Degas’ painting is an important work for classical impressionism and it can help