Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

The French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is considered one of the founders of the Impressionist movement.

The Ballet Class by Edgar Degas

His father expected him to study law, for which Edgar had no enthusiasm. He dropped out of law school to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts. He intended to become a historical artist, and studied the classical techniques.

Dancers at the Barre pastel by Edgar Degas

Degas enjoyed going to the Louvre and copying the work of the masters. It was there that he is said to have met Édouard Manet, one of his influences. Soon he gave up painting historical scenes in favor of depictions of contemporary life. In 1868 painted his first painting with a ballet theme, a subject with which he will forever be identified.

Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas
Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

In 1872 he visited relatives in New Orleans, and while there produced a number of paintings, including A Cotton Office in New Orleans.

A Cotton Office in New Orleans1873-Degas
A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas

Degas was an organizer of the Impressionist Exhibitions, eight art shows from 1874-1886 that showcased artists who were eschewed by the French Academy Salon. By then he was friends with a number of the Impressionists, including Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Édouard Manet, although he hated painting outdoors and considered himself a realist.

Dancer Taking a Bow by Edgar Degas

Perhaps one of his most famous works is his sculpture The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, which critics proclaimed ugly. I’ve loved that statue since I first saw a picture of it when I was a freshman in high school.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas

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