Edgar Degas 1834 - 1917

  Italian version


Edgar Degas: (1834-1917), was a French impressionist painter.

Impressionist painter

Like the other impressionists, he wanted to portray situations from modern life. However, he did not share his fellow impressionist's enthusiasms for light and color. Degas emphasized composition, drawing, and form more than did the other members of the movement.

Informal positions

Degas is best known for his paintings of people in both public and unguarded private moments. He showed his figures in awkward or informal positions to free himself from what he felt were outmoded styles of portraying the human body. But he composed his pictures carefully to achieve formal balance.

Renaissance painters

Hilarie German Edgar Degas was born in Paris of wealthy parents. From 1854 to 1859, he spent much time in Italy studying the great Italian Renaissance painters to perfect his draftsmanship and sense of style.

Courbet and Manet

Degas intended to become a painter of historical scenes, but he abandoned this career because he felt a need to paint modern subjects. Probably under the influence of the painters Gustave Courbet and Eduard Manet, Degas began to paint scenes from everyday life.

The techniques

He especially enjoyed painting pictures of race-track and theatrical life. During the 1870's, Degas began to use daring compositional techniques, partly influenced by Japanese prints. He placed his figures at unusual angles and used odd visual viewpoints. For example, he tilted his perspective to emphasize a sudden or informal movement by a figure. He even cut off parts of the subjects at the edge of the picture. In the 1880's, Degas started to concentrate on intimate scenes, such as women bathing, shopping, or drying or combing their hair.


Degas painted many pictures in oil, but he also excelled in pastel. Degas was a fine sculptor as well and produced many figurines of clay or wax.




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Degas' style

Degas' Young Dancer was completed in 1881. The artist now ranks as an important sculptor, but he created statues only to study movements of the body, not to be exhibited. The Dancing Class illustrates how Degas portrayed figures in informal poses. The picture's careful composition and unusual visual viewpoint are typical of Degas' style.

Degas's works of art

§ "Three Ballet Dancers, One with Dark Crimson Waist" Pastel on paper 1899 in Barnes Foundation

§ "The Dance Class" probably 1874 oil on canvas

§ "Dance Class at the Opéra" 1872 Musée d'Orsay Paris

§ "Danseuse assise" c. 1879-80 and "Seated Dancer" charcoal and pastel on paper mounted on pasteboard,The Hermitage St. Petersburg

§ "The Millinery Shop"oil on canvas 1884/90 Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection
§ "Three Jockeys" ca. 1900 Partial and Promised Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon 1992

§ "Bather Stepping into a Tub" ca. 1890 H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929

§ "Woman with a Towel" 1894 H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929

§ "Woman Bathing in a Shallow Tub" 1885 H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929
§ "Dancers, Pink and Green" ca. 1890 H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929

§ "Woman Drying Her Arm" H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929
§ "Russian Dancer" 1899 H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929
§ "Dancer with a Fan" ca. 1890–95 H. O. Havemeyer Collection Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer 1929

§ "Woman Combing Her Hair" ca. 1888–90
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold,1956

§ "Race Horses" 1885–88 The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection Partial Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1999

§ "The star, Dancer on stage" 1878 Pastel on paper Musée d'Orsay Paris


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