In the 1800s, when people depended on gaslight to light their homes, many artists put down their brushes at dusk and spent the late afternoon and evening in the many cafés around Paris. They gathered around marble-topped tables to discuss ideas with their friends or to watch the singers who arrived later to entertain them. One evening Edgar Degas quickly drew three sketches of a café singer. At the left she crosses her arms at her waist, her head and legs left incomplete. In the center she bows to the right, grasping her skirt with her gloved hand; on the right she gestures at an invisible audience.
Degas's quick pencil lines captured the fleshy width of her arms and chest and her simple upswept hair. Only a single zigzagging line forms the ruffled edge of her low-cut gown. Using swift, interrupted strokes, he only bothered to outline the figures, as if impatient to record each of the postures and gestures.