Facts about Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas died at 83 years old
Born: July 19, 1834
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: The French painter/sculptor of ballet dancers

     

Edgar Degas Biography

Name at birth: Hilaire-Germaine-Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas was a French painter and sculptor who is best known for his depictions of ballet dancers.

Although closely associated with the Impressionist movement of the late 19th century, Degas had a more classical approach to painting and derided the methods of those who were called impressionists.

His early paintings were historical scenes, and he began to exhibit in the Paris Salon in 1865. He soon changed subject matters, however, and most of his paintings in his career depicted contemporary urban scenes.

Between 1874 and 1886 Degas exhibited with Impressionist painters, but his role in the group seems to have been more about the politics of the Salon than any like-minded aesthetic approach.

He was friends with Edouard Manet and he had a mentor-like relationship with Mary Cassatt, but his generally conservative views and ties to classical realism kept him at a distance from other Impressionists.

An excellent draughtsman and rapid sketcher, his paintings were carefully planned to capture the movement of a figure in space. In later life, Degas turned to sculpture as he lost his eyesight.

Degas sculpted wax figures — mostly dancers — many of which were turned into bronze statues after his death.

His most famous early paintings are portraits of The Bellelli Family (1858-67), and perhaps his most famous sculpture was the controversial Little Fourteen Year-Old Dancer (1881), the only one of his sculptures exhibited during his lifetime. The lifelike wax figure was dressed in a cloth tutu and given a wig, and was proclaimed “ugly” by many critics.

By the end of his life, Degas had lost many friends because of his cantankerousness and political views.


     

Related Biographies

Something in Common with Edgar Degas