Produced on July 19, 1834, in Paris, France, Edgar Degas went to study in the cole des Beaux Arts (previously the Acadmie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris and became well-known as a leading portraitist, fusing Impressionistic sensibilities with conventional strategies. Both a painter and sculptor, Degas loved capturing female dancers and played with uncommon perspectives and concepts around centering. His work affected several important modern artists, including Pablo Picasso.
Their family were members of the middle class with more commendable pretensions. For a long time, the Degas family spelled their name “de Gasoline”; the preposition “de” indicating a landowning aristocratic heritage which they didn’t really have. As an adult, Edgar Degas reverted back to the first spelling. Degas came from an extremely musical family; his mom was an amateur opera singer and his dad sometimes organized for musicians to give recitals in their own residence.
Degas also shown a remarkable ability for drawing and painting as a kid, a gift supported by his dad, who had been a learned art fan. In 1853, in the age of 18, he received permission to “duplicate” at the Louvre in Paris. (During the 19th century, aspiring artists developed their technique by trying to reproduce the works of the masters.) He made several notable copies of Raphael as well, examining the work of more modern painters like Ingres and Delacroix. In 1855, Degas obtained entry to the cole des Beaux Arts (previously the Acadmie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris. He painted painstaking duplicates of the works of the great Italian renaissance painters Michelangelo and da Vinci, having a fear for ancient linearity that stayed a differentiating characteristic of even his most modern paintings.
Taking a conventional strategy, he painted big portraits of loved ones and grand historic pictures including “The Daughter of Jephtha,” “Semiramis Building Babylon” and “Scene of War in the Middle Ages.” Degas submitted these works to the all powerful Salon, several French artists and teachers who presided over public exhibits. It’d quite firm and traditional notions of beauty and appropriate artistic type, and received Degas’s paintings with calculated indifference. Degas grew to discuss Manet’s contempt for the presiding artwork institution in addition to his belief that artists needed to turn to more modern techniques and subject matter.
By 1868, Degas had become a leading person in an organization of avant garde artists including Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, who assembled often at the Caf Guerbois to discuss ways by which artists could participate the modern world. Their meetings coincided with tumultuous times in the annals of France. Degas mostly prevented the tumult of the Paris Commune by taking a long trip to see relatives in New Orleans.
Returning to Paris near the conclusion of 1873, Degas, as well as Monet, Sisley and other painters, formed the Socit Anonyme des Artistes (Society of Independent Artists), a group dedicated to putting on exhibits free of the Salon’s control. The paintings Degas displayed were modern portraits of contemporary girls—milliners, laundresses and ballet dancers—painted from extreme views.
On the span of the next 12 years, the group staged eight such Impressionist exhibits, and Degas displayed at all of these. His most renowned paintings during these years were “The Dancing Class” (1871), “The Dance Class” (1874), “Girl Ironing” (1873) and “Dancers Practicing in the Bar” (1877). While Degas’s paintings will not be overtly political, they do represent France’s shifting societal and economical surroundings. His paintings depict the development of the bourgeoisie, the development of a service market as well as the widespread entry of women to the office.
In 1886, at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in Paris, Degas presented 10 paintings of naked girls in a variety of phases of bathing. These nude paintings were the discussion of the exhibit as well as the origin of controversy; some called the girls “unattractive” while others praised the truthfulness of his depictions. Degas went to paint numerous studies of naked girls. He also continued to paint dancers, comparing the clumsy humility of the dancer backstage with her regal elegance in the middle of performance.
In the mid-1890s, an episode called the “Dreyfus Affair” sharply divided French society. Although signs that established Dreyfus’s innocence surfaced in 1896, wild anti Semitism kept him from being exonerated for another 10 years. Together with the nation deeply split between those in support of Dreyfus and the ones against him, Degas sided with those whose antiSemitism blinded them to Dreyfus’s innocence. His stand against Dreyfus cost him many friends and much respect within the generally more tolerant avant garde art groups. He never married, though he did count several girls, including American painter Mary Cassatt, among his close friends. Edgar Degas died in Paris on September 27, 1917, in the age of 83.
While Degas is definitely acknowledged as among the best Impressionist painters, his heritage was combined in the decades since his departure. The misogynist overtones within his sexualized portraits of girls, in addition to his extreme anti Semitism, have served to alienate Degas from some modern critics. However, the absolute attractiveness of his early works along with the clearly modern selfconscious elusiveness of his later portraits ensure Degas a long-term heritage. One thing stays indisputable about Degas: His were among the most painstakingly polished and tasteful paintings ever. An obsessional and cautious planner, Degas liked to joke he was the least impulsive artist living. “If painting were not hard,” he once noted, “it wouldn’t be so interesting.”