Edgar Degas

  • 1834 - 1917
  • Artist, Photographer
  • French

From a wealthy Parisian family, Degas devoted himself exclusively to painting without needing to sell a canvas. His training was conventional: he spent five years in Italy, studied the Old Masters in the Louvre, and trained under one of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' students at the École des Beaux-Arts. Fellow Impressionist Berthe Morisot remembered him saying that the study of nature was meaningless, since the art of painting was a question of conventions, and that it was by far the best thing to learn drawing from Hans Holbein. By the mid-1860s Degas was turning to modern themes, particularly contemporary Parisian life. Unlike other Impressionists, he emphasized composition and drawing, and he usually did not paint outdoors. Degas was primarily concerned with depicting movement, from horses to women in various guises--dressing, bathing, and as cabaret performers. He painted the first of his ballet dancers around 1873. Almost blind for his last twenty years, Degas worked mostly in pastel with increasingly broad, free handling. He also made wax sculptures that were posthumously cast in bronze.