Degas, (Hilaire-Germain-) Edgar


Degas, (Hilaire-Germain-) Edgar

biographical name

(born July 19, 1834, Paris, France—died Sept. 27, 1917, Paris) French painter, graphic artist, and sculptor. The son of a wealthy banker, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1855. He spent much time in Italy studying and copying the Old Masters and became a skilled draftsman, producing history paintings and portraits. In the 1860s he was introduced to Impressionism by Édouard Manet and gave up his academic aspirations, turning for his subject matter to the fast-moving city life of Paris, particularly the ballet, theatre, circus, racetrack, and cafés. Influenced by Japanese prints and the new medium of photography, he used displaced figure groupings and unfamiliar perspective to create figure groups seen informally and in movement, similar in effect to snapshots. His fascination with the ballet and the racetrack sprang from his interest in picturing people absorbed in the practiced movements of their occupations. He often worked in pastel, his favourite medium, producing series of women, bathers, ballerinas, and horse races. From c. 1880 he modeled wax figures, which were cast in bronze after his death. He was the first of the Impressionists to achieve recognition.

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