On Stage (Third Plate), 1877
soft-ground etching on laid paper
13.4 x 21.5 cm; plate: 9.9 x 12.6 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 36794)
This print is an impression of the fifth and final state that appeared as an illustration for the catalogue of an exhibition sponsored by Les Amis des Arts de Pau in 1877. The composition is adapted from a pastel over monotype that was exhibited in Pau, titled "Ballet at the Paris Opera" (Art Institute of Chicago, 1877). In both print and pastel the ballerinas dance against a backdrop of dense foliage, while along the bottom edge can be seen the heads of the musicians in the orchestra. In the print, the curved scroll and pegs of a cello or bass obscure one of the dancers to the left. To produce a soft-ground etching, the plate is coated with a soft, sticky ground. A sheet of paper is then laid on top, over which the artist draws with a pencil. When the paper is removed, the ground that has been drawn upon also comes away, allowing the acid to bite into these lines.