IN FRONT of some of the most famous ballet paintings in the world, dancer Ruby Quinn strikes a pose.

“I can definitely relate to these women,” says the 19-year-old, who is from Motherwell.

“The paintings are really interesting, because they tell stories about the dancers. You see them in different lights, from different angles that you wouldn't expect.

“Even though they were painted more than 100 years ago, the costumes, the poses, the facial expressions are all similar to modern-day dancers.”

Glasgow Times: Degas Exhibition

Discovering Degas: Collecting in the Time of Sir William Burrell, which begins on May 24, is the first international, ticketed exhibition at the Pollok Park museum since it re-opened following a £68m refurbishment in 2022.

For the first time, all 23 works by French Impressionist Edgar Degas in Burrell’s original collection will be on display together,  alongside a further 28 paintings, works on paper and sculptures on loan from galleries and collections around the world including Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the Tate and the V&A.

Glasgow Times: Curators Frances Fowle and Pippa Stephenson-Sit

“It is very exciting for Glasgow, you don’t get a Degas show every day,” says co-curator Frances Fowle, professor of nineteenth-century art at Edinburgh University and a senior trustee of the Burrell.

“Degas’s work appealed to collectors like Sir William Burrell due to his skilful drawing, as well as his interest in portraying figures in movement.

"He was extraordinarily modern in his approach, working in a variety of media, adopting unexpected viewpoints and experimenting with bold colours and unusual light effects.”

Glasgow Times: Degas Exhibition

She adds: “It is also a celebration of the extraordinary link between Glasgow and the world of Degas and French art, through art dealer Alexander Reid.”

Glasgow Times: Degas exhibition

Reid opened his own gallery, La Societe des Beaux-Arts, in the early 1900s in Glasgow, where he was a friend of Burrell and thread magnate WA Coats.

He was also friends with Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, with whom he briefly shared a Parisian apartment. Vincent’s portrait of Reid, which hangs in Kelvingrove, will also be included in this exhibition.

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 Pippa Stephenson-Sit, curator of European art at Glasgow Life Museums, said: “This has been a once in a lifetime project to work on as a curator and I have learned a great deal about both Degas and Burrell, who was ahead of his time in collecting these works.

Glasgow Times: Degas exhibition

“He was a philanthropic and educational collector – he would buy something and immediately lend it to the National Gallery or the Tate, for example.

"It was always about the art for him, he just wanted people to see it, so he was quite selfless. He would have loved this, I think, an exhibition telling the proper story of Degas and his work.”

Degas held deeply offensive anti-Jewish views, and the exhibition will “not shy away” from the artist's anti-semitism, explains Pippa.

“There will be an explanatory panel in the exhibition addressing the artist’s problematic views,” she says.

“It will also be included in the free audio guide and public programme. The exhibition is a celebration of the art, not the artist's views.”

The exhibition explores Degas’ fascination with ballet, and his paintings capture moments of relaxation behind the scenes as well as the exquisite, strenuous poses of the ballerinas, expertly recreated by Ruby and fellow dancers Eva Neilson and Zoe Rimmer.

“It is very exciting to be part of the Degas exhibition launch,” says Ruby, who is studying for an HND in dance at Jazzart College of Performing Arts in Motherwell, where she has been part of its dance school since the age of two.

“I do ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, all kinds of dance and a bit of musical theatre too,” she says. “I love ballet, it is a beautiful art, but I think I am better suited to other types of dance. I have lots of energy, I want to be on the go all the time.

“Lots of girls, when they get to their teenage years, want to go out with their friends and give up dancing. I never felt like that. Dancing is all I have ever wanted to do.”

She added: “I used to do gymnastics, but it always felt restricted, in a way – you were always just in one space, on the beam, on the bars. With dancing, you can still do the tricks and flips and lifts, but in so much more space. With dancing, the whole world is open to you.”

Ruby is heading to London for the summer, staying with relatives in nearby Oxford, in the hope of landing a job in the world of dance.

“The dream is somewhere abroad, or a cruise ship, or a hotel - but you never know, maybe a show in the West End....” she says, smiling.

“Nothing is ever off the table, I'm keeping an open mind."