She was there. Sketching Degas and his dancers, Paris, 1870s-1890s. (In process).

Sketch of me dressed as a dancer sketching Degas’s dancers. Graphite, India ink, watercolour, and chalk on paper. 11″ x 15″ ©2017 Mary Khan
Edgar Degas, Dancer with a Fan (study), c.1895 – c.1900


At age fourteen, after seeing the drawings of young dancers (who were around the same age as me) by Edgar Degas, I immediately made the decision to become a visual artist. I was struck by the draughtsman’s strong lines, movement, light, angles, and distinct use of colour. I identified with the girls both through my own physical embodiment – my light frame, my thin arms and legs – and as a burgeoning artist. I felt the marks I made on paper were somehow interconnected to his. Years later, when studying 19th century art history, I learnt of the harsh reality of survival for the dancers and the complicated role Degas played in depicting them. I am currently working on a group of drawings within my series “She was there.,” related to my lifelong admiration for and struggle with these works.

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