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Happy Birthday Edgar Degas!



Edgar Degas was born on July 19, 1834 in Paris, France to a wealthy family, his mother, Celestine Musson de Gas, and his father, Augustin de Gas, a banker. Degas took painting very seriously at a young age and by 18 had turned a room in his house into his painting room. His father expected him to go to school to become a lawyer along with the majority of aristocratic men, but he chose the route of art and studied under Louis Lamothe and took to the style of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres whom he later met and that same year was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Dagas served in the National Guard to defend Paris during the Franco-Prussian War which allowed little time for painting. However, following the war, Degas visited his brother in New Orleans and produced a number of works and upon his arrival back to Paris, he helped organize the first Impressionist Exhibition and subsequently held 7 additional shows.

After the death of Degas’ father, his debts forced Degas to sell his collection of art and live more modestly and depend on his artwork for income. Degas soon became isolated, partly due to his belief that “a painter could have no personal life.” Degas never married and spent the last of his years in Paris before dying September 27, 1917.

Degas is noted as one of the founders of Impressionism and is often associated as an impressionist, but this is an inaccurate description because he did not adhere to the “Impressionist color fleck” and disapproved of their work. Although he made no important contributions to the style of impressionists, he instead involved the organization of Impressionist exhibitions.

During Degas’ early career, his paintings consisted of mainly portraits with awkwardly cropped subjects and historic subjects in a less idealized manner. His style shifted to observation of contemporary life such as milliners, laundresses, opera performers, and dancers. As his subjects changed, so did his technique: his boring dark palette soon became vibrant and vivid in color. His paintings showed unusual angles of his subjects which Degas had intended and called it “bewitching the truth.”

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