[French Realist Impressionist Painter and Sculptor, 1834-1917]
Edgar Degas was a French painter and sculptor whose innovative composition, skillful drawing, and perceptive analysis of movement made him one of the masters of modern art in the late 19th century.
Degas is usually classed with the impressionists, and he exhibited with them in seven of the eight impressionist exhibitions. However, his training in classical drafting and his dislike of painting directly from nature produced a style that represented a related alternative to impressionism.
Degas was born into a well-to-do banking family on July 19, 1834, in Paris. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under a disciple of the famous French classicist J. A. D. Ingres, where Degas developed the great drawing ability that was to be a salient characteristic of his art. After 1865, under the influence of the budding impressionist movement, he gave up academic subjects to turn to contemporary themes. But, unlike the impressionists, he preferred to work in the studio and was uninterested in the study of natural light that fascinated them. He was attracted by theatrical subjects, and most of his works depict racecourses, theaters, cafés, music halls, or boudoirs. Degas was a keen observer of humanity—particularly of women, with whom his work is preoccupied—and in his portraits as well as in his studies of dancers, milliners, and laundresses, he cultivated a complete objectivity, attempting to catch his subjects in poses as natural and spontaneous as those recorded in action photographs.