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The White Ballet

1904 Everett Shinn Born: Woodstown, New Jersey 1876 Died: New York, New York 1953 oil on canvas 29 1/2 x 36 3/4 in. (74.9 x 93.3 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum and the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 2004.4 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing

Gallery Label

Everett Shinn and many of his contemporaries spent their early years as newspaper illustrators, learning, as he said, to "observe...and get the job done." For The White Ballet, he used his reportorial eye and the compositional devices of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec to capture what he called "the uptown life." Cropped views of the orchestra pit and the stage collapse the distance between the spectators and the show, and dramatic lighting puts the viewer in the thick of the action. At the turn of the twentieth century, theatres of all kinds thrived in America's cities, providing public arenas where the rich and the wage-earners alike could see and be seen. Shinn embraced the spectacle of urban life, and once said that although he often looked to "night courts, dives, docks and dance halls" for his subjects, the lives of the well-to-do and the "sweep of furs and swish of wild boas" provided his most exciting themes.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Architecture Interior - civic - theater

Figure group

Performing arts - dance - ballet

Recreation - theater - ballet