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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917), Figures studies

In his early career, Degas followed traditional academic practice by making preliminary studies of compositional arrangement and individual pictorial elements in preparation for a finished painting. 
This drawing does not relate directly to any of the large-scale figure compositions that Degas painted as a young man in the 1850s and early 1860s, although it may be that it represents a preliminary idea which was abandoned as the composition evolved. Similar youthful figures occur in a number of his paintings of around this date, often in pairs or groupings where one figure all but obscures an adjacent companion.