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Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas


After the Bath, Woman drying herself

At the Cafe Chateaudun

Ballet Dancers

Beach Scene.

Combing the Hair (La Coiffure)

Hélène Rouart in her Father's Study

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando

Portrait of Elena Carafa

Princess Pauline de Metternich

Promenade beside the Sea

Russian Dancers

Young Woman with Ibis

Dancers Practicing at the Barre

The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage

The Dancing Class

Three Dancers Preparing for Class

A Group of Dancers

After the bath woman drying herself

After the Bath. Seated Woman Drying Herself

At the Races in the Countryside

Ballet at the Paris Opera

Resting Dancer

The Ballet

Ballet Dancer with Arms Crossed

Ballet Rehearsal on Stage

Before the Performance

Billiard Room at Menil-Hubert



Dancers at the Barre

After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself)


The Ballet Class

Getting out of the bathtub

Ballett, seen from a Loge

Ballet rehearsal

Ballet rehearsal

Ballet hall of the opera in the Rue Peletier

Ballet School

Ballet scene

Stage rehearsal

The ballet

The millinery business ( In the milliner )

The Absinthe

The amateur

The dance hall

The curtain falls

New Orleans Cotton Exchange

The Body Care

The Prima Ballerina

Singer with a Glove

The Dancer at the Photographer

The Dance Class

Three Russian Dancers

Three Dancers

Three dancers in a practice room

End of the Arabesque

Woman at the window

Woman at Her Toilette

Woman at Her Toilette

Woman at Her Toilette

Woman while rubbing

Woman in the tub , her back washing

Woman in the bathtub

Rehearsal of the ballet on stage

Hand study

Harlequin and Colombine

Riders before the start

In the concert café " Les Ambassadeurs "

In the concert café : The Song of the Dog

In the Tuileries : Woman with a Parasol

Racehorses in Front of the Grandstand.

Kneeling woman

Copy of Menzel's Ballsouper

After the Bath

After the Bath

After the Bath Woman Drying Herself

Horse racing prior to the start

Portrait of the Bellelli Family

Portrait of Madame René de Gas

Portrait of Miss Cassatt, holding the cards

Portrait of Diego Martelli

Portrait of Count Lepic and His Daughters

Portrait of Henri Valpinçon

Portrait of a young woman

Portrait of Mademoiselle Dobigny

Rider in a Landscape

Racehorses : The Training

Racehorses at Longchamp

Lake and Mountains


Bowing dancers

Seated Woman

Still life with lizard

Beach at low tide



Dancer in her box

Dancer with bouquet ( Star of the Ballet )



Dancers at the barre

Dancers behind a backdrop

Dancers their shoes binding

Dancers in the Foyer

Dancers in Blue

Dancers in a landscape

Dancers in Green

Dancers in pink between the scenes

Theater loge

Four dancers

Prior to the start ( jockeys during training )

During the dance lesson : Madame Cardinal

Two ironing women

Two women washing

Before the Race

Dancers at Green-Room

Dancers behind the Scenes

Landscape, the Sunset


Woman Drying Her Foot

Woman Combing Her Hair

Woman with a Towel

Two Dancers

Bather Drying Herself

Portraits at the Stock Exchange

Woman Bathing in a Shallow Tub

The Singer in Green

Woman in Yellow

Woman Standing


Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper

Dancer Stretching

Nude rising in the bathtub

Nude Study of a rider

On a bed resting girl

On a chaise lounge sitting and drying off, female nude

Ballet dancer in three-quarter front view

Ballet dancer from behind

Ballet dancers in half figure

At the milliner

At the milliner

When styling

When styling

Ironer against the light

Lady with binoculars

The Opera Glass

Ceiling construction of the Circus Fernando

The violinist

The violinist

The green dancers

The singer Rose Caron with raised left arm , back figure

The strengthening after the bath

The dancer Josephine Gaujelin

The dance rehearsal

The daughter of Jephthah

The Entertainment

The fourteen year old dancer

Double Portrait of Giovanna and Giulia Bellelli

Three Nuns

Three Nuns

Three horses , seen from behind

Three Russian Dancers

Three Studies of a horse- jockeys

Three studies on the hindquarters of a horse

Three Dancers behind the scenes

Fan blade : dancers

Figure with a long robe

Figure study after Botticelli

Figure Study after Michelangelo

Figure studies after Michelangelo

Figure studies after Michelangelo

robe study

robe studies

Houses on cliffs above a bay

Hermann de Clermont

Jockey on trotting horse , in profile

Jockey in profile

Jockey leaning back in the saddle

Jockey bent forward in the saddle standing

Jockeys during training

John the Baptist

Young lady in street costume

Young Roman

Little dancer on the pole

Little Dancer , is resting

Nude boy in profile with his ​​legs spread

Nude boy with arms raised and legs spread

Compositional study after Poussin

Compositional study after Uccello

Concert Café singer

Concert Café singer at the lecture

Head Study of Raphael

Coastline at sunset

Lala , hanging with the teeth on the trapeze

Ludovic Halévy

Girl with guitar

Male Nude in step position

Male Nude with an angled left arm

Male Nude with crossed arms behind his head

Mary Cassatt with Puppy

Miss Lala at the Circus Fernando

Mme Ernest May as a woman in childbed

Mme Henri Rouart before a Tanagrastatuette

After the Bath

After the bath : female nude , the feet drying

Horse in a walking stance

Portrait of Ellen Andrée

Portrait of Giovanna Bellelli

Portrait of Hélèna Hertel

Portrait of Josephine Gaujelin

Portrait of Julie Burtey

Portrait of Julie Burtey

Portrait of Madame Lisle

Portrait of Marguerite de Gas

Portrait of Marguerite de Gas

Portrait of Marie Lucie Millaudon

Portrait of Marie Thérèse Morbilli

Portrait of Mathilde Musson - Bell

Portrait of Mlle Dembowski

Portrait of Mme Ernest May

Portrait of Rosa Adelaida Morbilli

Portrait of Alexis Rouart

Portrait of Auguste de Gas

Portrait of bassist M. Gouffé

Portrait of Diego Martelli

Portrait of Edouard Manet at the races

Portrait of Edouard Manet , sitting

Portrait of the young René de Gas

Portrait of René de Gas (?)

Portrait of René de Gas (?)

Portrait of Ulysse

Portrait of a Lady

Portrait study of Elisabeth of Austria

Portrait study after Bacchiacca

Portrait study after Gentile Bellini


Rider on horse standing

Rider on horse trotting

Rider with red jacket

Equestrian Portrait

Back view of a dancer

Russian dancer



Sitting young woman with arms crossed

Seated Dancer , her shoelace tying

Seated Dancer , her shoelace lacing

Seated Dancer , her shoe adjusting

Seated Dancer in Profile , the hand on the neck

Seated Dancer with outstretched left leg

Seated Dancer with raised right leg

Seated Nude combing

Seated Male Nude

Sitting back nude

Seated female nude on drying

Seated female nude , neck and back Sponging

Seated Female back nude when combing

Sitting girl combing

Standing stripped to the waist

Bent standing with arms extended to the side

Standing Horse

Standing Horse in Profile

Beach at low tide

Study of a violinist

Study after Benozzo Gozzoli

Study after Benozzo Gozzoli

Study for a doorkeeper from Asurnasirpals III palace.

Studies for an antique boy head , leg and foot studies

Studies for an antique head , leg and foot studies

Study sheet with kneeling dancer and arm study

Study sheet with portrait and figure studies

Study sheet with Roman wrestler

Study sheet with six portrait studies

Study sheet with self-portrait and detail studies

Study sheet with a seated dancer in adjusting the stocking

Study sheet with four studies of a jockey

Study sheet with female act in step position and the Right Arm

Dancer at the barre

Dancer at the barre

Dancer at the barre

Dancer at the barre

Dancer at a pillar

Dancer , her shoulder tape knoting

Dancer her girdle binding

Dancer in backlight

Dancer in profile , arms on hips

Dancer in sidelight

Dancer in half figure , her shoulder tape knoting

Dancer in half figure with crossed arms behind her head

Dancer in half figure with crossed arms behind her head

Dancer slipping into her shoe

Dancer in step position

Dancer in step position

Dancer bent slightly forward

Bent dancer with arms bent , forward

Dancer with raised left leg

Dancer with raised right leg

Dancer with arms outstretched

Dancer with arms outstretched

Dancer with double bass

Dancer with a bouquet of flowers

Dancer with raised right arm

Dancer with arms raised

Dancer with arms raised

Dancer with a Fan

Bent dancer with arms stretched forward

Dancer with the right leg stretched forward

Dancer with bare torso and arms raised

Dancer with side arms outstretched

Dancers at the barre

Dancers on Stage

Dancers on Stage

Trumpet blowing angel

Trumpet blowing angel in profile

Four jockeys before the start

Four studies of a rider

Four studies by a Jockey

Four dancers behind the scenes

Four dancers behind the scenes

Four dancers in half figure

Four willow stems

Before the race

In front of a standing lady chair

Leaning forward bach nude female , legs Sponging

Female Nude on the rim , legs Sponging

Female Nude on the rim , legs Sponging

Female Nude on the rim , legs Sponging

Female Nude , hair drying

Female Nude in the bathtub with erected right leg

Female Nude after bath

female half nude

Female back when washing in the bath

Female back with towel and sponge

Female back with left leg raised

Maid with a cup

Two ironers while reading a letter

Two jockeys

Two jockeys

Two jockeys

Two young ladies in street costume

Two girls in reading and combing

Two Seated Women

Two studies of the fourteen year old dancer

Two Dancers

Two Dancers

Two Dancers

Two Dancers

Two dancers at the barre

Two Dancers on a Bench

Two dancers behind the scenes

Two Dancers in the jersey

Two Dancers on a Bench nude

Two trotting horses

Two laundresses and horses


At the sea beach

On the stage


Rest on the bed

Aux Ambassadeurs

Aux Ambassadeurs


At the toilet

When standing up

When combing

On leaving the bath

On leaving the bath

Mountain landscape

Mountain landscape ( rock landscape )

Dawn in the Pyrenees

Dante and Virgil

The famous dinner on Friday

The Cap Hornu

The Feast of the brothel owner

The Feast of the brothel owner

The Foyer

The Foyer

The conversation

The Song of the Dog

The meeting

The bath tub

The river

The Jockey

The customer

The man with the beard

The man with the pipe

The rider gets on his horse on

The reputable customer

The Dream

The nurse

The trees

The ironers

The ironers

The ironers , detail

Family on a walk

The woman with the fan

The Gadrobe the actress

The Big Hair

The Infanta Margareta

The coffee house singer

The children of the Cardinal in conversation

The Loge

The actress Ellen Andrée

The road

The road in the forest

The toilet ( the bathroom )

Three motifs

The basin

The Willows


Three Dancers

Three Dancers, detail

An admirer of the corridor behind the stage

A lake in the Pyrenees

A singer

Woman at Her Toilette

Woman wearing stockings

Woman, the light extinguishing

Woman in profile

Woman with striped vest

Woman beside a bathtub

Women in cafe

Bust of a Woman

Miss Bécat in " Ambassadeur "

Green Landscape

Greeting dancer on stage

Autumn in the mountains

Autumn Landscape


In the Cirque Medrano and female nude

In the corridor behind the stage

In the rain

In anticipation


Coffee House Concert

Small dressing room


Conversation in the foyer

Head of a Woman

Head of a Woman

Head of a Woman with earrings

Head of a man and a woman




Landscape in Burgundy

Landscape with clear sky

Reading in the lamplight

Light phenomenon in the mountains

Ludovic Halévy

Ludovic Halévy backstage

Ludovic Halévy in conversation

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre

Mary Cassatt at the Louvre

moon rising

After the Bath

After the Bath

After the Bath

After the Bath

After the Bath

Nude woman in her room

Nude woman back figure

Pauline and Virginie while chatting

Pauline and Virginie while chatting

Horse in profile

Horses on the meadow

Portrait of Nathalie Wolkonska

Portrait of Marguerite de Gas

Portrait of Alphonse Hirsch

Portrait of Edouard Manet

Portrait of Edouard Manet

Portrait of Edouard Manet

Portrait of Edouard Manet

Portrait of Joseph Tourny

Portrait of René de Gas

Portrait of Rene Hillaire

Portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman

Portrait of a young man with beret

Reddish landscape

Singer from the cafe

Castle with Fontaine



Siesta - Brothel Scene

Siesta in the salon

Seated in an armchair prostitute

Seated Dancer

Woman standing in a bathtub

Woman standing in a bathtub

Standing naked woman at her toilet

Standing naked woman

Standing dancer at the edge of the stage

Squall in the mountains

Dancer , her shoe wearing

Dancer in position "Four "

Dancer , back view

Dancers backstage

Torso of a Woman

Torso of a Woman

Four female heads

During the coffee house concert

Forest in the mountains

Two trees

Two Women

Two Women

Two art lovers

Two men and two dancers

Two Dancers


Woman Rubbing Her Back with a Sponge,

Dancer at rest, Hands on Her Hips,Right Leg Forward, first study

Dancer Grande Arabesque, third time

Rearing Horse

Horse Balking

Seated Woman Wiping Her Neck

Dancer Putting on Her Stocking, First Study,

Dancer Looking at the Sole of Her Right Foot

The Tub,

The Masseuse

Woman Seated in an Armchair Wiping Her Left Side

Seated Woman Wiping Her Left Hip,

Head, Large Study for Portrait of Madame S.,

Woman Getting Out of Bath

Woman Taken Unawares

The Schoolgirl,

Woman Washing Her Left Leg, first study

Dancer, Fourth Position Front on Left Leg, first study,

Portrait, Head Resting on One Hand

Dancer, Arabesque over Right Leg, Left Arm in Line

Draft Horse

Study of a Horse (the ears are missing)

Dancer Putting on Her Stocking, last study,

Woman Washing Her Left Leg, second study

Spanish Dance,first study,

Picking Apples

Prancing Horse

Dancer Bowing

Dancer at Rest, Hands on Hips, Left Leg Forward

Dressed Dancer at Rest,

Dancer at Rest, Hands on Her Lower Back

Study in the Nude for Dressed Dancer

Woman Arranging Her Hair,

Pregnant Woman

Horse Walking with Foot Raised,

Dancer with Tambourine

Dancer Moving Forwards, Arms Raised,

Horse Standing

Dancer Moving Forward, Arms Raised

Dancer, Grand Arabesque, second time

Woman Stretching

Thoroughbred Horse Walking,

Little Dancer of Fourteen Years

Edgar Degas (US /deɪˈɡɑː/ or UK /ˈdeɪɡɑː/; French: [ilɛʁ ʒɛʁmɛ̃ ɛdɡɑʁ dəɡɑ]; born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas; 19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, preferring to be called a realist.[1] He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his renditions of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.[2]

At the beginning of his career, he wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.[3]
Early life
Edgar Degas c. 1850s

Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the oldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. His maternal grandfather Germain Musson, was born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti of French descent and had settled in New Orleans in 1810.[4] Degas (he adopted this less grandiose spelling of his family name when he became an adult)[5] began his schooling at age eleven, enrolling in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was thirteen, and his father and grandfather became the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth.

Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycée with a baccalauréat in literature in 1853, at age 18, he had turned a room in his home into an artist's studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in The Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853, but applied little effort to his studies. In 1855 he met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, whom Degas revered and whose advice he never forgot: "Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist."[6] In April of that year Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres.[7] In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1858, while staying with his aunt's family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but—contrary to conventional practice—he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention—a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait.[8]
Artistic career

Upon his return to France in 1859 Degas moved into a Paris studio large enough to permit him to begin painting The Bellelli Family—an imposing canvas he intended for exhibition in the Salon, although it remained unfinished until 1867. He also began work on several history paintings: Alexander and Bucephalus and The Daughter of Jephthah in 1859–60; Sémiramis Building Babylon in 1860; and Young Spartans around 1860.[9] In 1861 Degas visited his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy, and made the earliest of his many studies of horses. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1865, when the jury accepted his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages, which attracted little attention.[10] Although he exhibited annually in the Salon during the next five years, he submitted no more history paintings, and his Steeplechase—The Fallen Jockey (Salon of 1866) signaled his growing commitment to contemporary subject matter. The change in his art was influenced primarily by the example of Édouard Manet, whom Degas had met in 1864 (while both were copying the same Velázquez portrait in the Louvre, according to a story that may be apocryphal).[11]

Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him.[12]
A Cotton Office in New Orleans, 1873

After the war, Degas began in 1872 an extended stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother René and a number of other relatives lived. Staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue,[13] Degas produced a number of works, many depicting family members. One of Degas's New Orleans works, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, garnered favorable attention back in France, and was his only work purchased by a museum (the Pau) during his lifetime.

Degas returned to Paris in 1873 and his father died the following year, whereupon Degas learned that his brother René had amassed enormous business debts. To preserve his family's reputation, Degas sold his house and an art collection he had inherited, and used the money to pay off his brother's debts. Dependent for the first time in his life on sales of his artwork for income, he produced much of his greatest work during the decade beginning in 1874.[14] Disenchanted by now with the Salon, he instead joined a group of young artists who were organizing an independent exhibiting society. The group soon became known as the Impressionists. Between 1874 and 1886 they mounted eight art shows, known as the Impressionist Exhibitions. Degas took a leading role in organizing the exhibitions, and showed his work in all but one of them, despite his persistent conflicts with others in the group. He had little in common with Monet and the other landscape painters in the group, whom he mocked for painting outdoors. Conservative in his social attitudes, he abhorred the scandal created by the exhibitions, as well as the publicity and advertising that his colleagues sought.[1] He also deeply disliked being associated with the term "Impressionist," which the press had coined and popularized, and insisted on including non-Impressionist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli in the group's exhibitions. The resulting rancor within the group contributed to its disbanding in 1886.[15]

As his financial situation improved through sales of his own work, he was able to indulge his passion for collecting works by artists he admired: old masters such as El Greco and such contemporaries as Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Three artists he idolized, Ingres, Delacroix, and Daumier, were especially well represented in his collection.[16]

In the late 1880s, Degas also developed a passion for photography.[17] He photographed many of his friends, often by lamplight, as in his double portrait of Renoir and Mallarmé. Other photographs, depicting dancers and nudes, were used for reference in some of Degas's drawings and paintings.[18]

As the years passed, Degas became isolated, due in part to his belief that a painter could have no personal life.[19] The Dreyfus Affair controversy brought his anti-Semitic leanings to the fore and he broke with all his Jewish friends.[20] His argumentative nature was deplored by Renoir, who said of him: "What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn't stay till the end."[21]

Although he is known to have been working in pastel as late as the end of 1907, and is believed to have continued making sculptures as late as 1910, he apparently ceased working in 1912, when the impending demolition of his longtime residence on the rue Victor Massé forced him to move to quarters on Boulevard de Clichy.[22] He never married and spent the last years of his life, nearly blind, restlessly wandering the streets of Paris before dying in September 1917.[23]
Artistic style
The Dance Class (La Classe de Danse), 1873–1876, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas

Degas is often identified as an Impressionist, an understandable but insufficient description. Impressionism originated in the 1860s and 1870s and grew, in part, from the realism of such painters as Courbet and Corot. The Impressionists painted the realities of the world around them using bright, "dazzling" colors, concentrating primarily on the effects of light, and hoping to infuse their scenes with immediacy. They wanted to express what they saw in that exact moment.

Technically, Degas differs from the Impressionists in that he continually belittled their practice of painting en plein air.[24] "He was often as anti-impressionist as the critics who reviewed the shows", according to art historian Carol Armstrong; as Degas himself explained, "no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing."[25] Nonetheless, he is described more accurately as an Impressionist than as a member of any other movement. His scenes of Parisian life, his off-center compositions, his experiments with color and form, and his friendship with several key Impressionist artists—most notably Mary Cassatt and Édouard Manet—all relate him intimately to the Impressionist movement.[26]

Degas's style reflects his deep respect for the old masters (he was an enthusiastic copyist well into middle age)[27] and his great admiration for Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix. He was also a collector of Japanese prints, whose compositional principles influenced his work, as did the vigorous realism of popular illustrators such as Daumier and Gavarni. Although famous for horses and dancers, Degas began with conventional historical paintings such as The Daughter of Jephthah (c.1859–61) and The Young Spartans (c.1860–62), in which his gradual progress toward a less idealized treatment of the figure is already apparent. During his early career, Degas also painted portraits of individuals and groups; an example of the latter is The Bellelli Family (c.1858–67), a brilliantly composed and psychologically poignant portrayal of his aunt, her husband, and their children. In this painting, as in The Young Spartans and many later works, Degas was drawn to the tensions present between men and women. In his early paintings, Degas already evidenced the mature style that he would later develop more fully by cropping subjects awkwardly and by choosing unusual viewpoints.
L'Absinthe, 1876, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas

By the late 1860s Degas had shifted from his initial forays into history painting to an original observation of contemporary life. Racecourse scenes provided an opportunity to depict horses and their riders in a modern context. He began to paint women at work, milliners and laundresses. Mlle. Fiocre in the Ballet La Source, exhibited in the Salon of 1868, was his first major work to introduce a subject with which he would become especially identified, dancers.[28]

In many subsequent paintings dancers were shown backstage or in rehearsal, emphasizing their status as professionals doing a job. From 1870 Degas increasingly painted ballet subjects, partly because they sold well and provided him with needed income after his brother's debts had left the family bankrupt.[29] Degas began to paint café life as well, in works such as L’Absinthe and Singer with a Glove. His paintings often hinted at narrative content in a way that was highly ambiguous; for example, Interior (which has also been called The Rape) has presented a conundrum to art historians in search of a literary source—Thérèse Raquin has been suggested[30]—but it may be a depiction of prostitution.[31]

As his subject matter changed, so, too, did Degas's technique. The dark palette that bore the influence of Dutch painting gave way to the use of vivid colors and bold brushstrokes. Paintings such as Place de la Concorde read as "snapshots," freezing moments of time to portray them accurately, imparting a sense of movement. The lack of color in the 1874 Ballet Rehearsal on Stage and the 1876 The Ballet Instructor can be said to link with his interest in the new technique of photography. The changes to his palette, brushwork, and sense of composition all evidence the influence that both the Impressionist movement and modern photography, with its spontaneous images and off-kilter angles, had on his work.[26]
Place de la Concorde, 1875, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Blurring the distinction between portraiture and genre pieces, he painted his bassoonist friend, Désiré Dihau, in The Orchestra of the Opera (1868–69) as one of fourteen musicians in an orchestra pit, viewed as though by a member of the audience. Above the musicians can be seen only the legs and tutus of the dancers onstage, their figures cropped by the edge of the painting. Art historian Charles Stuckey has compared the viewpoint to that of a distracted spectator at a ballet, and says that "it is Degas' fascination with the depiction of movement, including the movement of a spectator's eyes as during a random glance, that is properly speaking 'Impressionist'."[32]
Musicians in the Orchestra, 1872, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas

Degas's mature style is distinguished by conspicuously unfinished passages, even in otherwise tightly rendered paintings. He frequently blamed his eye troubles for his inability to finish, an explanation that met with some skepticism from colleagues and collectors who reasoned, as Stuckey explains, that "his pictures could hardly have been executed by anyone with inadequate vision".[33] The artist provided another clue when he described his predilection "to begin a hundred things and not finish one of them",[34] and was in any case notoriously reluctant to consider a painting complete.

His interest in portraiture led Degas to study carefully the ways in which a person's social stature or form of employment may be revealed by their physiognomy, posture, dress, and other attributes. In his 1879 Portraits, At the Stock Exchange, he portrayed a group of Jewish businessmen with a hint of anti-Semitism. In 1881 he exhibited two pastels, Criminal Physiognomies, that depicted juvenile gang members recently convicted of murder in the "Abadie Affair". Degas had attended their trial with sketchbook in hand, and his numerous drawings of the defendants reveal his interest in the atavistic features thought by some 19th-century scientists to be evidence of innate criminality.[35] In his paintings of dancers and laundresses, he reveals their occupations not only by their dress and activities but also by their body type: his ballerinas exhibit an athletic physicality, while his laundresses are heavy and solid.[36]
At the Races, 1877–1880, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

By the later 1870s Degas had mastered not only the traditional medium of oil on canvas, but pastel as well. The dry medium, which he applied in complex layers and textures, enabled him more easily to reconcile his facility for line with a growing interest in expressive color.

In the mid-1870s he also returned to the medium of etching, which he had neglected for ten years. At first he was guided in this by his old friend Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, himself an innovator in its use, and began experimenting with lithography and monotype.[37] He was especially fascinated by the effects produced by monotype and frequently reworked the printed images with pastel.[37] By 1880, sculpture had become one more strand to Degas's continuing endeavor to explore different media, although the artist displayed only one sculpture publicly during his lifetime.
La Toilette (Woman Combing Her Hair), c. 1884–1886, pastel on paper, by Edgar Degas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

These changes in media engendered the paintings that Degas would produce in later life. Degas began to draw and paint women drying themselves with towels, combing their hair, and bathing (see: After the Bath, Woman drying herself). The strokes that model the form are scribbled more freely than before; backgrounds are simplified.

The meticulous naturalism of his youth gave way to an increasing abstraction of form. Except for his characteristically brilliant draftsmanship and obsession with the figure, the pictures created in this late period of his life bear little superficial resemblance to his early paintings. Ironically, it is these paintings, created late in his life, and after the heyday of the Impressionist movement, that most obviously use the coloristic techniques of Impressionism.[38]

For all the stylistic evolution, certain features of Degas's work remained the same throughout his life. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory, photographs, or live models.[39] The figure remained his primary subject; his few landscapes were produced from memory or imagination. It was not unusual for him to repeat a subject many times, varying the composition or treatment. He was a deliberative artist whose works, as Andrew Forge has written, "were prepared, calculated, practiced, developed in stages. They were made up of parts. The adjustment of each part to the whole, their linear arrangement, was the occasion for infinite reflection and experiment."[40] Degas himself explained, "In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement".[29]
External video Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas 044.jpg
Edgar Degas's Studies of Circus Performer, Miss Lala, Getty Museum
Degas' The Dance Class, Smarthistory
Video Postcard: The Millinery Shop (1879/86) on YouTube, Art Institute of Chicago

Degas's only showing of sculpture during his life took place in 1881 when he exhibited The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. A nearly life-size wax figure with real hair and dressed in a cloth tutu, it provoked a strong reaction from critics, most of whom found its realism extraordinary but denounced the dancer as ugly.[41] In a review, J.-K. Huysmans wrote: "The terrible reality of this statuette evidently produces uneasiness in the spectators; all their notions about sculpture, about those cold inanimate whitenesses ... are here overturned. The fact is that with his first attempt Monsieur Degas has revolutionized the traditions of sculpture as he has long since shaken the conventions of painting."[42]

Degas created a substantial number of other sculptures during a span of four decades, but they remained unseen by the public until a posthumous exhibition in 1918. Neither The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years nor any of Degas's other sculptures were cast in bronze during the artist's lifetime.[41] Degas scholars have agreed that the sculptures were not created as aids to painting, although the artist habitually explored ways of linking graphic art and oil painting, drawing and pastel, sculpture and photography. Degas assigned the same significance to sculpture as to drawing: "Drawing is a way of thinking, modelling another".[29]

After Degas's death, his heirs found in his studio 150 wax sculptures, many in disrepair. They consulted foundry owner Adrien Hébrard, who concluded that 74 of the waxes could be cast in bronze. It is assumed that, except for the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, all Degas bronzes worldwide are cast from surmoulages (fr) (i.e., cast from bronze masters). A surmoulage bronze is a bit smaller, and shows less surface detail, than its original bronze mold. The Hébrard Foundry cast the bronzes from 1919–1936, and closed down in 1937, shortly before Hébrard's death.

In 2004, a little-known group of 73 plaster casts, more or less closely resembling Degas’s original wax sculptures, was presented as having been discovered among the materials bought by the Airaindor Foundry (now known as Airaindor-Valsuani) from Hébrard’s descendants. Bronzes cast from these plasters have been issued by Airaindor-Valsuani in editions inconsistently marked and thus of unknown size. There has been substantial controversy concerning the authenticity of these plasters as well as the circumstances and date of their creation as proposed by their promoters.[41] While several museum and academic professionals accept them as presented, most of the recognized Degas scholars have declined to comment.[43][44]
Personality and politics
Self-portrait (photograph), c. 1895

Degas, who believed that "the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown",[45] lived an outwardly uneventful life. In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon" by the novelist George Moore,[45] and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor.[21] Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone.[45] He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant.[45] Although Degas painted a number of Jewish subjects from 1865 to 1870, his anti-Semitism became apparent by the mid-1870s. His 1879 painting At The Bourse is widely regarded as strongly anti-Semitic, with the facial features of the banker taken directly from the anti-Semitic cartoons rampant in Paris at the time.[46]

The Dreyfus Affair, which divided Paris from the 1890s to the early 1900s, further intensified his anti-Semitism. By the mid-1890s, he had broken off relations with all of his Jewish friends,[20] publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic "Anti-Dreyfusards" until his death.[47]
Dancers, 1900, Princeton University Art Museum

During his life, public reception of Degas's work ranged from admiration to contempt. As a promising artist in the conventional mode, Degas had a number of paintings accepted in the Salon between 1865 and 1870. These works received praise from Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary.[48] He soon joined forces with the Impressionists, however, and rejected the rigid rules, judgements, and elitism of the Salon—just as the Salon and general public initially rejected the experimentalism of the Impressionists.

Degas's work was controversial, but was generally admired for its draftsmanship. His La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, or Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, which he displayed at the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881, was probably his most controversial piece; some critics decried what they thought its "appalling ugliness" while others saw in it a "blossoming".[49]

In part Degas' originality consisted in disregarding the smooth, full surfaces and contours of classical sculpture ... [and] in garnishing his little statue with real hair and clothing made to scale like the accoutrements for a doll. These relatively "real" additions heightened the illusion, but they also posed searching questions, such as what can be referred to as "real" when art is concerned.[50]

The suite of pastels depicting nudes that Degas exhibited in the eighth Impressionist Exhibition in 1886 produced "the most concentrated body of critical writing on the artist during his lifetime ... The overall reaction was positive and laudatory".[51]

Recognized as an important artist in his lifetime, Degas is now considered "one of the founders of Impressionism".[52] Though his work crossed many stylistic boundaries, his involvement with the other major figures of Impressionism and their exhibitions, his dynamic paintings and sketches of everyday life and activities, and his bold color experiments, served to finally tie him to the Impressionist movement as one of its greatest artists.

Although Degas had no formal pupils, he greatly influenced several important painters, most notably Jean-Louis Forain, Mary Cassatt, and Walter Sickert;[53] his greatest admirer may have been Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[54]

Degas's paintings, pastels, drawings, and sculptures are on prominent display in many museums, and have been the subject of many museum exhibitions and retrospectives. Recent exhibitions include Degas: Drawings and Sketchbooks (The Morgan Library, 2010); Picasso Looks at Degas (Museu Picasso de Barcelona, 2010); Degas and the Nude (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2011); Degas' Method (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2013); and Degas's Little Dancer (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 2014).


Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 31
Brown 1994, p. 11
Turner 2000, p. 139
Brown, Marilyn R (1994). Degas and the Business of Art. p. 14. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
The family's ancestral name was Degas. Jean Sutherland Boggs explains that De Gas was the spelling, "with some pretentions, used by the artist's father when he moved to Paris to establish a French branch of his father's Neapolitan bank." While Edgar Degas's brother René adopted the still more aristocratic de Gas, the artist reverted to the original spelling, Degas, by age thirty. Baumann, et al. 1994, p. 98.
Werner 1969, p. 14
Canaday 1969, p. 930-931
Dunlop 1979, p. 19
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 43
Thomson 1988, p. 48
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 23
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p.29
"Michael Musson and Odile Longer: Degas' aunt and uncle in New Orleans". Degaslegacy.com. 1973-03-30. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p.33
Armstrong 1991, p. 25
"In the final inventory of his collection, there were twenty paintings and eighty-eight drawings by Ingres, thirteen paintings and almost two hundred drawings by Delacroix. There were hundreds of lithographs by Daumier. His contemporaries were well represented—with the exception of Monet, by whom he had nothing." Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 37
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 26
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 34
Canaday 1969, p. 929
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p. 56
Bade and Degas 1992, p. 6
Thomson 1988, p. 211
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 41
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 11
Armstrong 1991, p. 22
Roskill 1983, p.33
Baumann, et al. 1994, p. 151
Dumas 1988, p. 9.
Growe 1992
Reff 1976, pp. 200–204
Krämer 2007
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p.28
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p. 29
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p.50
Kendall, Richard; et al. (1998). Degas and The Little Dancer. Yale University Press. pp. 78–85.
Muehlig 1979, p. 6
Thomson 1988, p. 75
Mannering 1994, pp. 70–77
Benedek "Style."
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 9
Cohan, William D., "A Controversy over Degas", Artnews, April 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
Gordon and Forge 1988, p. 206
"Bailey, Martin, "Degas bronzes controversy leads to scholars’ boycott", ''The Art Newspaper'', 31 May 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013". Theartnewspaper.com. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
According to William Cohan, "a group of Degas experts" who convened in January 2010 to discuss the sculptures reached "universal agreement ... that these things were not what they were being advertised as", but declined to speak on the record, citing fear of litigation. Cohan, William D., "Shaky Degas Dancer Gets the Silent Treatment", BloombergView, 22 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
Werner 1969, p. 11
[1] Archived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
Nochlin, Linda (1989). Politics of Vision: Essays on 19th Century Art And Society. Harper & Row.
Bowness 1965, pp. 41–42
Muehlig 1979, p.7
Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p.46
Thomson 1988, p. 135
Mannering 1994, p. 6-7
J. Paul Getty Trust

Guillaud and Guillaud 1985, p. 48


Armstrong, Carol (1991). Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-02695-7
Auden, W.H.; Kronenberger, Louis (1966), The Viking Book of Aphorisms, New York: Viking Press
Bade, Patrick; Degas, Edgar (1992). Degas. London: Studio Editions. ISBN 1-85170-845-6
Baumann, Felix; Karabelnik, Marianne, et al. (1994). Degas Portraits. London: Merrell Holberton. ISBN 1-85894-014-1
Benedek, Nelly S. (2004). "Chronology of the Artist's Life". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 6 May 2006.
Benedek, Nelly S. (2004). "Degas's Artistic Style". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 12 November 2006. Retrieved 6 May 2006.
Bowness, Alan. ed. (1965) "Edgar Degas." The Book of Art Volume 7. New York: Grolier Incorporated :41.
Brettell, Richard R.; McCullagh, Suzanne Folds (1984). Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago. New York: The Art Institute of Chicago and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-86559-058-3
Brown, Marilyn (1994). Degas and the Business of Art: a Cotton Office in New Orleans. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00944-6
Canaday, John (1969). The Lives of the Painters Volume 3. New York: W.W. Norton and Company Inc.
Dorra, Henri. Art in Perspective New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.:208
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Coverage of the Degas debate By Martin Bailey. News, Issue 236, June 2012

Further reading

Capriati, Elio; I Segreti di Degas (2009). Milano: Mjm Editore. ISBN 978-88-95682-68-6
Valery, Paul; "Degas, Manet, Morisot" Princeton University Press, 1989.
Dumas, Ann, Ives, Colta Feller, Stein, Susan Alyson, Tinterow, Gary, Cachin, Françoise, Durand-Ruel Godfroy, Caroline, Kendall, Richard, et al. (1997).The Private Collection of Edgar Degas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York : The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by H.N. Abrams.

External links

Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, Bernd Growe

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