Degas was an expert at depicting current life, such as dancers, performers, and ladies grooming at the sink. His technique was impeccable, and he dabbled in several mediums, including pastel. Today, Degas's work is still much admired, and the Collection provides a good overview of his many techniques and subjects.
From the very first Impressionist exhibition in Paris, Degas was there. Because of his income, he didn't have to worry about trying to drum up business like everyone else. After dropping out of law school in 1855 to study under academic painter Louis Lamothe, he spent the rest of his life in Paris. He attended the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, in 1855. He first visited Italy in 1856–1856, when living in Rome, and returned there often afterward. Despite his respect for Ingres, he shifted to Impressionism after being influenced by Manet, another artist he knew well.
Despite his reputation as a gifted speaker, Degas lived a solitary life. He dabbled with the emerging medium of photography, which may have influenced his later compositional choices. In his later years, when his failing eyesight prevented him from working outside, he turned to sculpture in addition to painting. Pastels predominate in his last graphic pieces.
On July 19, 1834, in Paris, the world was introduced to Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, commonly known as Edgar Degas. His parents, bankers, were members of the upper middle class. Edgar's mother, Célestine Musson, was of French ancestry and was born in Louisiana; his father, Auguste, was half Italian and half French. Edgar attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris in his youth, where he received his bachelor's degree in literature. Edgar was born into a wealthy family that aspired to even tremendous success, so he was pushed to study art and music officially with a variety of teachers and develop his talents to the point that he became the brilliant and stylish young man of his day. He started on the route of becoming a lawyer but eventually realized that painting was his true calling.
Degas attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris beginning in 1855. He copied the works of the Old Masters at the Louvre and then traveled to Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice in July 1856 to study Renaissance art there. While visiting his aunt Laura Bellelli in Florence in 1858, he drew ancient and Renaissance art and local colors and created his first big picture, The Bellelli Family.
In Paris, Edgar studied under Louis Lamothe (1822-1869) and later Nicolas Soutzo (1834-1907). After receiving a classical art education, young Degas set out to emulate the great Renaissance painters by painting monumental religious and historical subjects. Young Spartans Exercising and Semiramis Building Babylon, both from about the year 1861, are two examples of his work in this style, which share a frieze-like depiction of the topic. Typical of Degas, he kept at the Young Spartans throughout the years.
The artist also tried his hand at portraiture, a genre in which he had tremendous success in accomplishing his goals. Degas frequently painted twin portraits with dramatically contrasting attitudes and feelings to add psychological depth to his work. Degas often included other pictures inside his paintings. In the tradition of Renaissance painters who used things as symbols that may transmit greater depth to a knowing spectator, Degas often added a significant picture that commented on the characteristics of the person being represented. It was the jury of the Paris Salon in 1865. However, that took their attention because of another historical epic he had painted, Medieval War Scene.
Eventually, Degas became frustrated with the constraints of being too attached to the past or maybe sensitive to the changes in contemporary art. Instead, he depicted ordinary life as it occurred in the circles with which he was most familiar: bourgeois Paris. Mademoiselle Fiore in the Ballet 'La Source is the first of his works demonstrating this shift while retaining a connection to the historical painting technique. The piece was shown in the 1868 Paris Salon. Degas's prolonged exposure to classical art and the more recent Neoclassicist artists like Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) had a lasting effect on the artist's prioritization of drawing, form, and composition, as well as the prominence he gave to the female nude, just as the artist was about to move into modernity for his subjects fully. To paraphrase what Ingres had advised Degas, "Draw lines, young guy, numerous lines" (Howard, 42). Many art experts agree that, due to this concentration, Degas is the best draftsman among the impressionist artists of his day.
Degas's artist pals may have found him frustrating at times because his complicated personality and sharp wit could be both charming and scathing. According to art historian V. Bouruet Aubertot, Degas's personality might be summed up as follows: Edgar Degas was a man of contradictions: he was brusque but sympathetic, haughty yet perceptive, stubborn yet restless. His friendships remained faithful, and he remained fiercely independent of official circles and fads.
Throughout his career, Degas benefited greatly from the financial security provided by his affluent family. Degas' realism technique and subsequent popularity with the public were first attributable to his portraiture. Unlike many of his fellow impressionists, he established a steady clientele that purchased his work. Furthermore, he was an avid collector of Neapolitan puppets and works by 19th-century artists and other impressionists.
Many of the young avant-garde painters of Paris in the 1860s socialized at the city's cafes. At the Café Guerbois and other establishments in Paris's Batignolles neighborhood, these artists debated fervently about the future of the creative arts. Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Claude Monet (1840-1926), and Edouard Manet (1832-1883) were all members of this group (1832-1883). Authors such as Émile Zola also joined them (1840-1902). The gang eventually became known as "the Batignolles," and Degas was a part of it. Isolated at times from the group due to his attitude, he did not always get along with Manet, the de facto leader, even though the two were the closest artistically. To Manet's dismay, Degas had expanded the circle to include younger, more realistic painters.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) were two of the most well-known female painters of the impressionist era, and Degas was very close to them both. As the latter put it in a letter, "always the same, a touch weird, but delightful in spirit" best describes Degas (Bouruet Aubertot, 314). Degas never married, and the little information we know about his personal life comes from the few close friends he brought to his studios in Montmartre. They were careful to keep their opinions to themselves. Artistic isolation is necessary because, as Degas observed, "the artist's private life should remain unknown" (Roe, 35).
In July 1870, when the Franco-Prussian War began, the artist collective disbanded. During the siege of Paris, both Manet and Degas enlisted in the National Guard as volunteers to help protect the city. Degas's drawings of his fellow French artillerymen lasted throughout his career. Afterward, a civil war broke out, which hampered the progress of everyone's professions. Degas decided to take advantage of the calm before the storm by traveling to the United States in 1872. He sailed to New Orleans to see his mother's relatives. In 1873, he painted The Cotton Market, New Orleans, widely considered a contemporary masterpiece. Thirteen individuals, including purchasers, brokers, and office slackers, are gathered around a sizeable cotton-covered table in an office.
After the war ended and Paris was again open to the public, the impressionists held their exhibition in April 1874 to compete with the Paris Salon. Degas showed ten paintings, pastel drawings, and sketches in the First Impressionist Exhibition. He was one of the most well-received painters at subsequent impressionist shows, which occurred between 1876 and 1881.
Though Degas worked on a wide range of topics, there are recurring ideas throughout his canvases. He spent a lot of time learning about horses at Paris's chic racetracks because of his intense fascination with them. He was also drawn to the bright colors of the circus, the lively activity of café society, and the seriousness of the stock market. The realm of opera and ballet, in particular, seems to have fascinated the artist more than any other topic. Degas was also interested in depicting the process leading up to a public performance, such as when a horse is resting between races or while a dancer is rehearsing.
The 1860s were a prime time for horse racing, and Degas' early drawings show a passion for depicting thoroughbreds authentically. One aspect of the sport that captivated his attention was the tense moments before a race or after a false start. While many of his paintings have the frieze-like appearance we first saw, the addition of Japanese print influences has allowed him to develop this style further (trendy at the time in France). The sceneries are intentionally off-kilter in terms of their cut-off points, asymmetry, and perspective, giving the impression that he snapped the shot either a fraction of a second too early or a fraction of a second too late. The result is a painting with a new sense of reality, like a painted version of a candid image rather than a staged studio portrait. The film Jockeys Before the Race illustrates this strategy in action (c. 1878-9).
These days, Degas is most known for his numerous paintings and sculptures of ballerinas. When a friend asked Degas why he was so interested in Greek theater, he said, "Because...it is all that is left to us of the unified movements of the Greeks" (Kear, 46). A further pragmatic motivation for painting ballerinas may have been added by 1878 when the Degas family became bankrupt. Despite his prosperity, Edgar was not a good saver, and his passion for art collecting left him strapped for cash. He knew that ballerinas would be a popular topic among art collectors. His masterpiece on the subject, The Star (1876), depicts a solitary dancer viewed from above as if from one of the pricey boxes. Similar to horse racing coverage, ballerinas are often seen either getting ready to dance or accepting plaudits from the crowd but not dancing. Degas's paintings of ballerinas are at their most impressionistic when he attempts to capture the eerie glow of the stage lights. To make it to the top of their field, dancers must put in many hours of practice, which can be both physically and mentally taxing.
Degas consistently depicts male and female characters in opposing positions. Double portraits, scenes with male spectators, or a man teacher in a ballet class are all examples of this. Interior, a piece the artist, saved for himself to show guests, is the pinnacle manifestation of this passion. Interior, initially painted in 1868 but altered since then, depicts a man and a woman in an unspecified relationship in a bedroom. Therefore, in the strictest sense, this is not a genre painting in which the story is explicitly presented to the audience (even if left slightly ambiguous). However, Degas frequently referred to it as "my genre image" (Kear, 40). He never explained the situation to his audience because, as he put it, "a picture asks for a certain mystery, some ambiguity, some imagination" (Kear, 41)
Degas was an impressionist, but he was a bit of a different kind of painter; in fact, he preferred to call the other avant-garde artists "independent painters" since they didn't all fit neatly into one category. Compared to the traditional impressionist style of painting in the open air, Degas preferred the conventional practice of sketching a subject and painting it in the comfort of the studio (en Plein air). You may want sunlight, but he once said that artificial illumination is necessary for me (Bouruet Aubertot, 313). Degas often reworked his compositions by tracing previously drawn figures and arranging them in new ways. As a result, sometimes, you may see a ballerina position in one of his pieces featuring bathers. Like the Old Masters, Degas never wavered in his belief that solid drawing and lines are essential. Instead of trying to capture the fleeting interplay of colors, Degas's impressionism centered on finding a new method to depict a person or setting. In a nutshell, like numerous others in the group, he recognized the limits of an impressionist technique, mainly when dealing with topics that call for a more excellent approximation to reality.
Degas was one of the first to see that photography represented a significant departure from traditional forms of artistic expression. Degas used techniques from the photographer's toolkit, including creative framing, off-center placement of the subject, and an overhead viewpoint, in his photographs. Using this technique, the artist accomplished a feeling of motion and realism in his paintings.
The artist Degas was likewise fond of experimenting with new mediums. Gouache, which is oil paint that has been thinned to resemble watercolor, was another medium he regularly used. At one point, he immersed himself in the study of engraving and monotype printing, techniques he often used with pastels. He often used monotype printing and pastel in the same piece of artwork. Towards the end of his life, as his eyesight failed, he turned to sculpt, primarily working in wax, clay, and plaster to portray human body positions. La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (Little Dancer Aged Fourteen), sculpted in 1878, is one of his most well-known works.
Career After Degas was included in the 1885 impressionist exhibition at Brussels' Hôtel du Grand Miroir. In his later works, the artist focused less on depicting everyday life in Paris and more on portraying the beauty of the human body, as shown in his paintings of dancers and bathers. The Tub (1886) is a famous painting from this era because it depicts a lady taking a bath from an unusually high vantage point and because the image is vertically interrupted by a shelf. Like others by Degas, the intimacy between the observer and the subject in this picture is startling.
The lack of distinct personality in several of these later female works contributed to Degas' already flaming image as a sexist. Others argue that the spectator, still a voyeur, is now only an admirer of the universal female form engaged in practical everyday work because of the lack of focus on the face. We know she is an artist's model, yet she is not acting as a typical artist's model would. The lady who is the subject of these pieces has no idea that she is not alone. We look inside at the races, the ballerinas, and everything.
The artist visited Spain and Morocco in 1889. In 1892, he went on a trip to Switzerland and the southwestern region of France. That year he surprised everyone by returning to landscapes and organizing a new show in Paris. They are all pastels; there are no humans in them, they were made in a controlled environment, and there is a fuzzy quality to them (leading to one critic likening them to views from a fast train). As a result, the actual terrain comes off as less of a concern than the effort put into portraying pleasing color tones.
In 1896, Degas had an exhibition of his pictures; he also kept working in pastel and sculpture, albeit his declining eyesight limited his production. The artist lived a primarily reclusive life far into the 20th century, yet his fame only expanded. The Louvre's 1911 acquisition of 19 Degas pieces was unusual because the museum typically waits until an artist has passed away before displaying their work.
Edgar Degas, at 83, died on 27 September 1917 at his residence in Paris. He was buried at the cemetery of Montmartre. He had never married or had children, as he had previously said: "There is love and there is an art, and we only have one heart" (Kear, 66). (Kear, 66). Degas's lengthy career and widespread acclaim set him apart from his contemporaries. Artist and writer Camille Pissarro once said in a letter, "Degas is, without question, the finest artist of our time" (Kear, 86).
Furthermore, he received a lot of respect from painters of the following age, most notably Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Degas' knowledge of art history, proficiency in draughtsmanship, inventions, and promotion of ordinary life were all vital parts of what had become known as modern art. Degas's paintings and drawings have fascinated viewers for almost a century because of their unconventional perspectives, strange lighting effects, and underlying psychological tension.
Most paintings Edgar Degas did are about People, Nude, Sketch and Study, Portrait, Landscape, Interior, Seascape, and other subjects.
Most of the artist's works that can be seen by the public today are now kept in museums like Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY, Musée d'Orsay, National Gallery of Art - Washington DC, Norton Simon Museum - Pasadena, Museum of Fine Arts - Boston, and others.
Famous Edgar Degas period artists include Pierre Auguste Renoir (French, 1841 -1919), John Singer Sargent (American, 1856 -1925), Claude Monet (French, 1840 -1926), Camille Pissarro (French, 1830 -1903), Marianne North (British, 1830 -1890), Alfred Sisley (French, 1839 -1899), William Merritt Chase (American, 1849 -1916), Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 -1906), Odilon Redon (French, 1840 -1916), Armand Guillaumin (French, 1841 -1927), Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (Russian, 1832 -1898), Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863 -1923), and others.
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