Edgar Degas Ballet School, c. 1876

The compositional direction in this painting moves diagonally from upper left to lower right, and then back toward the center background in a shorter diagonal, forming what may be described as a left-handed check mark. This is accented by the spiral staircase, which is presented at such an angle that a section protrudes into the room and at first glance it appears suspended in space. The angle is deliberate; it enabled Degas to offer a pair of disembodied legs on the floor, amid the split—second motion of another pair of legs descending the stairs. The bright, warm, golden sunshine streams through the large window to create a pool of light on the floor and add a gossamer texture to the filmy tutus.

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A Ballet School

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