Degas Performance


Performing as artist Edgar Degas in a historical “tableau vivant” at the de Young and Legion of Honor Museums, San Francisco, July, 2010. The painting you see me working on, Dance Rehearsal (shown below), is an original composition inspired by the compositional approach and style of Degas.

Video length: 1 minute 8 seconds

Dance Rehearsal


32″ x 30″, pigment, acrylic and pastel on canvas

This painting is inspired by Edgar Degas’s wonderful paintings and drawings of dancers. It was created as part of my tableau vivant portrayal of Degas at the de Young and Legion of Honor Museums in celebration of the Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay and Impressionist Paris exhibitions. The painting and the dancers you see depicted are based on photos and sketches I made at The Ballet Studio and the Chamberdance (Academy of Ballet) in San Francisco. I performed with members of the Ballet School at the de Young Museum and with members of Chamberdance at the Legion of Honor Museum. This painting was the featured case study in my DVD-ROM Post-Print Painting The Sutton Way, now available as a download.

I am fascinated by Degas’ use of dramatic cropped imagery, his depictions of dancers in off-performance moments and the thoughtful construction of his compositions. I constructed the composition of this painting with the thought in mind of “how would Degas have portrayed these dancers?” That led me to include part of the piano accompanist and the teacher. It is not based on any single Degas work but more his overall approach to depicting his dancers. Degas experimented with different media and new technology, including photography, and would have loved the digital tools of today!

To learn more about the process of researching and developing this painting please read the article I wrote for the April 2011 issue of the Digital Paint Magazine.

Here are some photos of the Degas performances:

Renee, Peri and Nico, from the Academy of Ballet, being painted at the Legion of Honor Museum

Drawing Peri


Sketches of Peri and Nico

Drawing Nico

Drawing Renee

Sketch of Renee

Nico, Peri and Renee enjoying the artworks I just createdof them

Degas and his traveling art kit!

Sketching from the wings as Chamberdance perform in the Florence Gould Auditorium

Sketches of Chamberdance made from the side of the stage

The view from outside the de Young Museum (photographer Steven Somerstein) as I sketch Amanda and Mia


Sketches of Amanda and Max


Talking with an enthusiastic audience:-)

Sketch of Mia

Painting dancers at the de Young Museum

One of the sketches made at the de Young

Drawing Joey

Here are close up shots of the final painting:

Acrylic paint applied with use of a painting knife onto thebow at the back of one dancer’s dress (above) and onto the swirling fabric of another dancer’s dress (below).

This section of the painting (above)shows where I used scumbling and glazing techniques.

Notice the difference in reflectivity between a region of the painting where I applied a gloss gel (above) versus a semi-gloss gel (below).

Thank you to Renee Baldocchi of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for kindly inviting me to participate in these wonderful artistic collaborations at the de Young and the Legion of Honor Museums. Thank you to Renee’s colleagues at the museums, Cynthia and Andrea and the rest of the staff who helped make everything run so smoothly. Thanks to the fabulous dancers Mia, Amanda, Max (de Young, July 30), Peri, Renee, Nico and Chamberdance (Legion of Honor, August 1), Emily, Lisa, Rachel, Andrew, Pemberly and Joey (de Young, August 13), and all their teachers: Henry and Charles from the Ballet Studio and Richard, Zory and MaryEllen from the Academy of Ballet. A big thank you to Peggy who tirelessly helped me carry Degas’ not so light traveling art kit and kindly documented the whole creative process, as you can see from her wonderful photos shown here.


  1. susanmarsidi
    November 12, 2012

    Love your work, your are very talented Artist.

  2. mani
    January 4, 2013

    beautiful work.i love it and much edgar degas.


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