Degas developed an interest in ballet at an early age and in 1872 he made his first studies of ballet dancers. He avoided the true drama, the performance itself. Like he pictured the world of the horseracer before and after the race, he showed what happened behind the scenes in the ballet world of l’Opera. He chose subtle, apparently random compositions and painted them with an unexpected approach.
Like in the world of photography, which he greatly admired, his world stretches beyond the frame. The edges are cut off giving an almost “snapshot” appearance and the audience is granted a short glimpse into a world sealed off from real life: “like peeping through a key hole”, said Degas himself.
This distant approach seems a reflection of Degas’ own life. When one of his favourite models went to New York, the apparently uninterested bachelor followed her, sailing on the next boat only to return to France never having left the ship, exclaiming: “What more can we do than to show that one is able to follow a lady from Paris to New York?”