Edgar Degas
1834 - 1912

The sculptor and painter Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas was a French painter and sculptor, whose innovative composition, skillful drawing, and perceptive analysis of movement made him one of the masters of modern art in the late 19th century. The career of Edgar Degas was a long one - about 60 years out of the 83 which he lived. Degas style, unlike that of most famous artists who worked into their old age, never ceased developing, always seeking out new means of expression and technique.

When Degas had passed away, he left more than 2000 oil paintings and pastels and 150 sculptures. The sculpture models were all cast after his death. Degas was not well known to the public, and his true artistic stature did not become evident until after his death. Today, paintings by Edgar Degas can sell for more than $16 million USD.

Edgar Degas and the Impressionism

Edgar Degas joined the Impressionists and showed most of his art works alongside those of the Impressionists, including Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro in their exhibitions from 1874 to 1886.

Degas is usually classed with the impressionists, and he exhibited with them in seven of the eight impressionist exhibitions. However, his interest in classical drafting and his dislike of painting directly from nature produced a style that represented a related alternative to impressionism.The relationship of Edgar Degas' work to the other Impressionists was to be marked both by his experiences in Italy and by his abiding interest in the human form as opposed to the landscape.

The extraordinary relationship between Edgar Degas and Manet

1862 was certainly a year of coincidental meeting which would have great consequences for art. That year, whilst he was copying Velazquez's "Infanta Margarita" onto a copper plate at the Louvre, Edgar Degas was interrupted in his work by Edouard Manet, signaling the beginning of an extraordinary relationship between them. They had much in common: both were of patrician Parisian families, and neither had been greatly influenced by the 'plein-air' movement.

Despite the fact that circumstances link them very closely with the "true" Impressionists such as Monet and Pissaro, their own artistic concerns in painting "la vie Parisienne" were largely to hold them together and apart from the others.

Manet and Degas were great admirers of one another's work (albeit on occasion very grudgingly), but they differed greatly in matters of politics and philosophy. Manet was staunchly republican in his politics and a considerable intellectual who craved and enjoyed the society of writers and critics involved with the new art such as Champfleury, Duranty, Baudelaire and later Mallarme. Degas, on the other hand was an arch-conservative and was frequently to be seen as a peevish anti intellectual.