Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris as the son of a wealthy banker. He
studied art at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. After having finished
his studies he went to Italy where he stayed for five year studying and copying
meticulously the old masters of the Renaissance. His decision to study the old
masters was typical for his personality - that of a perfectionist.
Back in France in 1859, Degas exhibited his works for the first five years at
the official Salon in Paris. Later he joined the Impressionists and showed his
art work in their exhibitions from 1874 to 1886.
The favorite subjects of Degas were scenes from the world of entertainment and
later from everyday's life. Ballet dancers, little ballerinas, women in intimate
situations and horse races are the subjects that are immediately associated
with him. Degas in contrast to his impressionist colleagues, preferred to work
in a studio. He made sketches of his subjects on the spot and created the painting
later in his studio. Toulouse-Lautrec, who was a great admirer of Edgar Degas,
had the same work style.
Japanese prints were very popular at the end of the nineteenth century and had
a great influence on the French impressionists. Edgar Degas was one of the admirers
of Japanese prints. And the influence can be seen in some of his daring compositions
using large areas of flat colors.
Degas was an artist torn between traditional art and the modern impressionist
movement. He admired the French artist Ingres and the great Italian painters.
His own compositions of images are harmonious and follow the traditions of the
old masters. And what often looks like the spontaneous sketch of a genial moment,
was in reality the elaborate result of a perfectionist.
From the impressionists he had learned the use of creating effects with light,
a daring use of colors and new ways to show the human figure in motion. And
from the Japanese ukiyo-e masters he had learned the use of space.
Degas used a wide variety of mediums and techniques. When he grew older, he
turned to sculptoring, pastels and printmaking.
In his thrive for perfection, he repeated the same subjects again and again.
When he concentrated on printmaking in the nineties, his preferred subjects
were female nudes, either nude women at their toilette or nude dancers. Edgar
Degas had a collection of decorative utensils like a bathtub, a sofa and a curtained
bed in a corner of his studio.
During the war with Germany in 1870-1871 Degas served in the French army. The
medical cause is not known, but since his time in the military service, he had
problems with his eyes. In his late years the artist's eyesight deteriorated
more and more. He was unable to create oil paintings and focused his artistic
creativity on sculptures. Degas formed his sculptures using wax or clay. Favorite
subjects were ballerinas or race horses.
When Degas had passed away, he left more than 2000 oil paintings and pastels
and 150 sculptures. The sculpture models were all cast after his death.
For buying and selling original work please contact the gallery.