Edgar Degas

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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, more commonly known as Edgar Degas, was a French-born artist from Paris. He came from a large family of five children. Among them, Edgar was the eldest. Degas’ mother died when he was only 13 years old, and his influences growing up included his father and uncles. Degas began painting in his youth and graduated from the Lycée at the age of 18 with a literature degree. He returned home and transformed his room into his own personal art studio and signed up as a copyist for The Louvre Museum. His dream was to become an artist despite his father wanting him to attend law school, and he honored his father’s wishes of attending. In 1855, Degas enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts to pursue drawing and eventually made his way to Italy, where he lived for three years.

Well known for his Impressionist-style oil pastel drawings and paintings, he loved to use ballerinas as inspiration for his craft. The idea that he was an Impressionist artist is not completely accurate as he disliked the idea of painting outdoors and preferred his studio. Despite his protests of the Impressionism movement, he is classified as an Impressionist painter due to the style of art he produced.

One of his earliest works, entitled The Bellelli Family (c. 1858-1867), depicted his relatives. including his aunt, her husband, and his two cousins. This piece of art is currently on display at the Musée d’Orsay and is also known as Family Portrait. It is believed he created this painting after his return to Paris from Italy. Over time, he became more influenced by modern work and drew inspiration from Édouard Manet. He eventually moved overseas to New Orleans, Louisiana to live with near his brother and some other relatives.
Degas began painting traditional historical work with the pieces The Daughter of Jephthah (c. 1859-1861) and The Young Spartans (c. 1860-1862). The latter of the two, as well as The Bellelli Family, portrayed the frictions between men and women. With a mature style of painting at a young age, Degas cultivated his style more by painting his subjects positioned oddly in the frame and from unusual perspectives.

Degas began depicting women in his paintings and drawings more and often portrayed them nude. One painting, entitled After the Bath: Woman drying herself (c. 1890s), depicted a naked woman sitting on a toilet and towel drying her hair. It was during this era that Degas began painting in a more abstract manner than before and the resemblance to Impressionist-style colors was more apparent.

Although Degas never married, he pursued a number of women over the years, including Mary Cassatt, who was an American artist. Despite some of his work causing controversy, he had numerous paintings and drawings accepted into the Salon. He blended styles and is considered a pioneer of Impressionism, even though he preferred the term Realism to describe his own work. He died in France on September 27, 1917 at the age of 83.