Edgar Degas
1834 - 1917

His innovative composition, skillful drawing, and perceptive analysis of movement made him one of the masters of modern art in the late 19th century.
His study of Japanese prints led him to experiment with unusual visual angles and asymmetrical compositions. His subjects often appear cropped at the edges, as in Ballet Rehearsal (1876, Glasgow Art Galleries and Museum). In Woman with Chrysanthemums (1865, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City), the female subject of the picture is pushed into a corner of the canvas by the large central bouquet of flowers.
Degas was not well known to the public, and his true artistic stature did not become evident until after his death.


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.


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 Jean-Auguste-Dominique 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.
In the 1880s, when his eyesight began to fail, Degas began increasingly to work in two new media that did not require intense visual acuity: sculpture and pastel. In his sculpture, as in his paintings, he attempted to catch the action of the moment, and his ballet dancers and female nudes are depicted in poses that make no attempt to conceal their subjects' physical exertions. His pastels are usually simple compositions containing only a few figures. He was obliged to depend on vibrant colors and meaningful gestures rather than on precise lines and careful detailing, but, in spite of such limitations, these works are eloquent and expressive and have a simple grandeur unsurpassed by any of his other works.

Source: Encarta 1999 Encyclopedia.
 


Art is vice, you don't marry it legitimitely, you ravish it!
Taste! It doesn't exist, An artist makes beautiful things without being aware of it.
There is no such as Intelligence; one has intelligence of this or that. One must have intelligence only for what one is doing.
There are some women who should barely be spoken to; they should only be caressed.
. . . 'That Manet,' as soon as I did dancers, he did them. He always imitated.
Manet wasn't thinking about plein air when he painted Déjeuner sur l'herbe. He didn't think about it until he saw Monet's first paintings. He could never do anything but imitate.
Monet's landscapes with their light and agitated atmosphere, make me feel there must be a draught in the exhibition room — I feel like putting up my collar.

Degas died in 1917, in the middle of the war that he was hardly aware of and at a time when his funeral was able to go almost unnoticed, perhaps a fitting for an artist who claimed, 'I would like to be illustrious and unknown!'

Source: Degas by himself; Drawings, prints, paintings, writings; Edited by Richard Kendall; Chartwell Books, Inc.


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