|Hilaire Germain Edgar
Degas was born into a well-to-do banking family on July 19, 1834,
Although primarily known for his ballet dancers done in pastel medium,
Degas' work includes landscapes, cafe-concert and race horse scenes,
nude women combing their hair, portraits--themes which he approached
through drawing, oil painting and pastel media. He also rendered
his themes through sculpture (e.g. dancers, horses) and through
photography (landscapes, nudes, portraits) which he would then use
as a basis for his paintings.Degas is usually classed with the Impressionists,
and he exhibited with them in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibitions.
He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he was influenced by
the famous French classicist Ingres. At the Academy and later in
Italy, Degas developed his great skill in drawing.
1865, under the influence of the budding Impressionist movement,
he gave up academic subjects to turn to contemporary themes. A cerebral
artist and connoisseur of the French and Italian masters, he was
able to bridge his more radical approach with tradition. Said Degas:
"No art is less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of
reflection and the study of the great Masters; of inspiration, spontaneity,
temperament I know nothing. I must redo the same subject ten times,
twenty times... Nothing in art should seem like an accident, even
movement". He evolved, throughout the years, from his more tightly
controlled pictures (drawings, oil paintings) done in the 1870s
to the freer, more explosive pastels of his later career. He had
a keen sense of composition, working innovatively with perspective
to give variety to his pictures. He was masterful in his use of
color, a gift much admired by Bonnard.
His study of Japanese prints led him to experiment with unusual visual
angles and asymmetrical compositions.
He also experimented
In the 1880s, when his eyesight began to fail, Degas began increasingly
to work in two media that did not require intense visual capacity:
sculpture and pastel.
Although his witty ascerbic remarks could be rather punishing,
he cultivated friendships with other artists, including Cassat,
Degas' entrepreneurial spirit is seen not only in his work,
but also in his key role as organizer of the French Impressionist
movement. He is said to have had a leading role in organizing the
First Exhibition of the Impressionists which opened April 15, 1874.
Degas' legacy thus extends beyond his artwork--by being instrumental
in creating a movement, French Impressionism, which has had lasting
repercussions into the 20th century.
He died in Paris on September 27, 1917.
Works by Edgar Degas
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