Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Fine Arts


Art and Visual Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Anna Brzyski


The context in which any artist creates an artwork is integral to understanding its significance, and one crucial aspect of context is how a work was created. When first looking at how Edgar Degas created his dancer paintings, his process seems simple- he watched the dancers and then painted what he saw. However, that is only a surface examination of a much more complicated system of observation, practice, repetition, mastery, and reproduction. This thesis investigates how Degas bridged the gap between observation and understanding of balletic technique; how deep his knowledge of balletic technique was; and if Degas did have a deep understanding of balletic technique, what process he utilized to gain that knowledge. It reconstructs the process Degas utilized to learn and then reproduce the repertoire of the Paris Opéra ballet by pairing visual analysis of specific works with my own knowledge of ballet technique as a dancer of twenty years. Ultimately, this study reveals that Degas learned how to dance classical ballet by mimicking the process ballerinas used to learn how to dance: first watching, then doing, and finally performing.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)