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Edgar Degas - French Impressionist

Updated on August 23, 2009

Artist Edgar Degas was born on July 19, 1834 in Paris, France. He was the eldest of five children and his father was a successful banker. He attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, graduating with a BA in literature in 1853. In 1853, he began attending the Faculty of Law at the University of Paris; that same year he registered as a copyist at the Louvre (he was allowed to copy the paintings in the museum). On 1855, he left law school and started studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While there he studied with Louis Lamothe while copying the style of Ingres.

From 1856 to 1859, Degas travelled to Italy where he copied the paintings of the Italian masters such as Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael. When he returned in 1859, he opened his own studio in Paris. His first acceptance to the Salon de Paris was in 1865 with his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages. While much of Degas’ painting was historical in nature, he is particularly known for painting ballet dancers.

In 1872 until 1873, Degas lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of his most well-known paintings, The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans was created there. Degas returned to Paris in 1873 and began showing his work with the Impressionists. While Degas is seen as a founder of Impressionism, he preferred to be called a realist.

In the 1880s, Degas became interested in photography. In 1881, he had an exhibition of his works of sculpture. His last paintings were created in 1912; his declining eyesight made it impossible to continue.

Edgar Degas died on September 27, 1917.

Degas Quotes

Everyone has talent at 25. The difficulty is to have it at 50.

Nothing in art should seem accidental, not even movement.

A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

No art is less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters.

Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.

New Orleans Cotton Exchange 1873

Portrait of Miss Cassatt, Seated, Holding Cards 1876-1878

Stage Rehearsal 1878-1879

After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape 1898


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    Degas Fan 7 years ago

    Here is a website that specializes in Degas paintings and posters -

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Glad you guys like the artist hubs :)

  • Aunty profile image

    Aunty 8 years ago from Scotland

    I've also long been a fan of Degas. Thanks UW for a really interesting hub, love it! Aunty,x.

  • SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

    Degas soft brush strokes are pleasing to the eye. We used to have a print of State Rehearsal in our art class in school, and I admired looking at the full skirts of the ballerinas. I highly recommend an introductory art history class to anyone who has never taken one, and the teaching assistant actually tried to get me to major in this because I really enjoyed the subject matter. Unfortunately, I was almost done with college, but looking back this would have been a very interesting major. I love to look at paintings and write about the feelings I have regarding these.