"Study lines, draw lots of lines, either from memory or nature, and you will become a good artist."
(Advice given by Ingres to Degas)
As an artist Edgar Hilaire Germain de Gas is unique and refreshing in that he can not be totally categorised into any of the various trends of his era. Placing too much emphasis on line and draftmanship to be considered an impressionist, moving away from traditional patterns, to develop a style of his own makes it possible to call him a classicist only for a short time early in his career. Similarly he stands apart from the Romantisists, Realists and Neo-Impressionists to be in a category of his own. His reputation as a loner in terms of his art style was mirrored somewhat in his social life, although he had a few close friends such as Manet, Renoir, Gaugin and Monet he was a lonely man remained unmarried and was never known to have had any love affairs.
Degas was born July 19, 1834 to a wealthy Parisian family. His father Auguste moved from Naples to Paris and changed the family name from Degas to de Gas to make it appear he came from a noble French background. Degas' schoolboy dreams where of becoming an artist, and he was greatly influenced by his lifelong admiration of Ingres plus many visits to the Louvre and Italy to view the work of the great masters. In his last years fading eyesight saw him painting less and turning more to sculpture and modelling.
Degas' inspiration to create came from his passion for the Parisian life with its theatres, dancehalls, circuses and perhaps his favourite subjects of all the racetracks and ballet. It is estimated Degas made approximately 1500 paintings, pastels, prints and drawings of dancers.
Perhaps the difficulty in classifying Degas into a particular category of art is a consequence of the true genius of a man able to paint as a classicist, as an impressionist, as a realist and more, with a brilliant combination of them all to place him in a class of his own.
Bellelli Family 1860
The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans(1873)
The Dance Class (1874)
The Absinthe Drinkers (Posed by Ellen Andrée and Marcellin Desboutin) (1876)
Music Hall Singer (La Chanson du Chien) (1875-7)
The Green Dancers (1877-9)
Jockeys in the Rain (1880-1)
The Mante Family (1884)
Girl with a Hat (1887-90)
Huttinger, E. (1977). Degas - Crown Art Library. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks.
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Piper, D. (1981). The Dictionary of Painting & Sculpture, Art & Artists, Painters & Sculptors, Terms & Techniques. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers.
Spence, D. (1998). Degas - The Invisible Eye. UK: Ticktock Publishing.
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The Great Artists (1985) Degas - Part 16. London: Marshall Cavandish Ltd.
1834 Born in Paris
1847 death of mother, Celestine de Gas
1854 first of several trips to Italy, begins to study with Lois Lamothe a follower of Ingres
1855 studies briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Ingres
1865 The Sufferings of the City of New Orleans is exhibited at the Paris Salon exhibition
1870 serves in the Franco-Prussian wars, suffers eyesight damage
1872 travels to London then visits relatives in New Orleans
1873 paints Portrait in a New Orleans Cotton Office featuring his uncle Michel Musson and his brothers Rene and Achille
1874 father dies leaving him vast debts. Degas is forced to sell off some of his art collection. Helps organise first impressionist exhibition. Paints Two Dancers on the Stage.
1878 Portrait in a New Orleans Cotton Office is brought by the Musee des Beaux-Arts.
1881 sculpture of the Little Dancer of Fourteen Years is exhibited
1882 exhibits in Paul Durant-Ruel's London and New York galleries
1896 enthusiastic about the new way of observing the world, through of the lens of a camera - buys a Kodak portable camera
1911 Fogg Art Museum presents a retrospective of Degas' work
1912 American art collector Louisine Havemeyer pays 478,500 francs for Dancers Practising at the Barre.
1917 dies in Paris on September 27th. Death initiates a demand for his work and prices rise steeply