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Edgar Degas

"Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music"

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Edgar Degas was a French artist born in Paris in the year 1834 on 19th of July. He also produced sculptures and prints. Though he was regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, he preferred being called a realist. He painted many ballet dancers, bathing female nudes and portraits. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity.

He began painting very early in life. By the time he graduated in literature, at the age of 18, he had turned a room in his house into a studio. His father expected him to study law and because of that he also enrolled in a law school in Paris but put little effort in his studies. In 18885 he met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingress whose advice Degas never forgot:

"Draw lines, young man, still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist" He joined the art school Ecole Des Beaux Arts. He studied drawing with Louis Lamonthe and followed the style of Ingress. While staying at his aunt's place in Naples he prepared for his first masterpiece The Belleli Family.

The Belleli family

He also began work on History paintings such as Alexander and Bucephalus and The daughter of Jephthah. His art subject matter began to change to contemporary which was influenced by Edouard Manet.

In 1870 he enlisted in the National Guard during the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. After the war he produced many works at his uncle's place. A Cotton office garnered favorable attention.

A Cotton Office

After the death of his father, Degas learned that his brother had amassed enormous debts for which he sold his house and an art collection he had inherited. He produced some of his greatest works during this time since he depended mostly on the sales of his artwork. He the joined a group of young artists who were organising an independent exhibiting society. The group became known as Impressionists. Though Impressionist practised painting outside the studio, Degas preferred inside.

His paintings show deep respect for the Renaissance artists. Degas began to paint Cafe life as well as seen in L'Absinthe.


His paintings often hinted at narrative content in a way that was highly ambiguous like the painting ,Interior.


His painting, Place de la Concorde and many other paintings show the influence of impressionism and the skill of his photography.

Place de la Concorde

By 1870s he mastered not only oil on canvas but also pastel as well. The dry medium he applied in complex layers and textures, enabled him more easily to reconcile his facility for line with a growing interest in expressive color.

The meticulous naturalism of his youth gave way to an increasing abstraction of form. Degas explained his belief on art saying "In art nothing should look like chance, not even movement".

Dancer with a bouquet

Degas was also a sculptor. His only showing of sculpture during his life took place in 1881 when he exhibited a life size wax figure with real hair and dressed in a cloth Tutu, Little dancer of fourteen years.

Little dancer of fourteen years

As years passed Degas became isolated, due in part to his belief that a painter could have no personal life. His argumentative nature was deplored by many and all his friends had to leave him. About 150 sculptures were found after his death most of which were deteriorated.

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