Edgar Degas was born on 19 July 1834. He was an artist of French origin who was known for his paintings, sculptures and drawings. However, he was particularly known for his work being in the theme of dance. Though he was primarily known as being an impressionist, he did not like the label for himself. He liked being called a realist instead. One of the most outshining features of his work was seen in his ability to portray movement. Also, his work is known for its psychological complexity as well as portrayal of human isolation.
At the commencement of his career, he was more inclined to contribute as a painter. This was after all the capacity for which he received his formal education. It happened in his early thirties that he changed the direction from the conventional manners of a history painter.
Degas spent most of his early childhood in France. He belonged to a moderately wealthy family and had four siblings to which he was the oldest. Edgar’s grandfather was also of the French descent and had moved to the New Orleans around 1810.
Degas began his schooling when he was eleven. At the age of thirteen, his mother passed away. Consequently, his father and grandfather became his guardians and also his main influences. It happened from a very young age that Edgar begun to paint. When he had graduated, he transitioned his room into an artist’s studio. Soon later, he also began working as a copyist in The Louvre Museum. The decision was not met with much approval by his father who wanted him to join law school instead. Following his father’s wishes, Degas joined the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853. However, he could not achieve anything academically and his performance remained significantly below par.
In 1855, he met Ingres. This was the artist who Degas not only respected but also listened to with great intent. “Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist.”
In the month of April of the very year, Degas enrolled in École des Beaux-Arts. From here, he worked on his art skills and further refined his strokes. In July 1856, Degas visited Italy where he stayed for three more years.
While staying with his aunt in 1858, Degas produced his first prominent piece. This was later called Family. The work was followed by many similar other master pieces.
Edgar Degas’s only showcase of his sculptures during his lifetime was in 1881. Here, he displayed The Years. His work consisted of a statue that was clearly life-size and had tresses of long real hair. Though critics praised Degas for this realistic depiction, but many slotted his sculpture as being ugly.
Degas believed that an artist’s creativity flourishes only when he lives alone. Also, probably to add a layer of mystery to an artist’s personality, very little should be revealed about him to the public. Hence, at least outwardly, Degas lived a remarkably uneventful life. He is said to have liked his reputation as a misanthrope bachelor. In fact many state that he was the one to have cultivated it.
By the 1980s he had broken of ties with most of his friends and finished many of his friendships with Jewish artists. This attitude of his persisted till his death.