Degas and His Ballerinas
Edgar Degas’ paintings are some of the most well known art pieces of the 19th century. While many may not know the name Degas, they’ve all seen the paintings and sculptures of the lovely ballerinas.
Born in France July 19, 1834, Edgar Degas was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas and is best known for his works in printmaking, painting, sculpture, and drawing. Ironically called one of the founders of Impressionism, Degas disliked this term and rejected it, preferring the term ‘realist’ instead. A master of depicting dance, nearly half of his works are of ballerinas. In fact, he is recognized as an exceptional painter of movement. Most noted for the detail and expert skill in his works, Degas’ paintings often express much psychological complexity. Early on, Degas desired to be a historical painter, studying classical techniques and enduring rigorous training for many years. It wasn’t until his 30′s that he switched direction and became a classically styled painter of modern depictions.
Serving in the military during the Franco-Prussian War, Degas all but abandoned painting for nearly two years. After the war, he swiftly moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to live with relatives. He resumed painting there and created the single painting to be purchased by a museum in his lifetime- “A Cotton Office in New Orleans.”
Returning to France only a year later, Degas began work on his most famous paintings shortly after his father’s death. Mocking the “plein aire” style of Monet, Degas admired the works of Manet and Van Gogh as well as El Greco. He later developed a love for photography and left himself to isolation much of the time, believing he could have no personal life. Many other painters of the time including Renoir thought his temperament to be far too combative to be agreeable to them and soon left him to himself.
Living to the ripe old age of 83, Degas lived much of his life alone and never married. He spent the last years of his life suffering from near blindness and wandering the streets of Paris following the demolition of his home until he died in 1917.
The Painted Word