About this artwork

This sketchy painting of a girl’s head is believed to show a young ballet-dancer. She is positioned next to a source of strong light, possibly a window, which makes her profile resemble a silhouette. Determining the date of this picture has proved problematic, with suggestions ranging from the late 1870s to the 1890s. It is possible that Degas worked on this painting for a time and then abandoned it, only to return to it after a lapse of some years. The painting shows Degas making bold experiments with colour. He has examined the different colours that the light and shade have created in the girl’s skin tone, and has included a number of yellow, pink and green tints.

  • title: A Study of a Girl's Head
  • accession number: NG 2227
  • artist: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar DegasFrench (1834 - 1917)
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Shadows Impressionism
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: Late 1870s
  • measurements: 57.10 x 45.00 cm (framed: 75.90 x 63.90 x 6.50 cm)
  • credit line: Presented by Sir Alexander Maitland in memory of his wife Rosalind, 1960
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Degas's celebrated paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture focus on aspects of Parisian modern life, including the racecourse and the ballet. His studies at the École des Beaux-Arts encouraged his interest in the human figure which remained central to his art. He travelled to Italy, where he had relatives, and where he continued to study the art of the past. The family portraits he painted there, however, also reflect his interest in capturing momentary appearances and unusual viewpoints. This he shared with the Impressionists, whom he met through Edouard Manet, on his return to Paris. Degas contributed to seven of the eight Impressionist group exhibitions.