Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (1834–1917). The course of life of the Parisian painter had few dramatic peaks. Being the eldest son of a well-to-do family the cynical, snobby loner was able to devote his life to the arts. Furthermore, he remained a bachelor, because: "There is love and there is work, and we only have one heart." His classical education can be reco...

Edgar Degas (1834–1917). The course of life of the Parisian painter had few dramatic peaks. Being the eldest son of a well-to-do family the cynical, snobby loner was able to devote his life to the arts. Furthermore, he remained a bachelor, because: "There is love and there is work, and we only have one heart." His classical education can be recognised in his earlier work, in particular the strict composition and lining inspired by Ingres whom he greatly admired. Degas took a special position within the group of artists led by his friend Monet, who regularly got together in the ‘Café Gurebois’. His cynicism and sharp tongue however, made him difficult in company and many ideas from Zola, Renoir and Monet did not appeal to him. Although he referred to himself as an ‘independent realist’, he was very much involved in the impressionistic revolution and the themes and techniques developed in his works are considered to have formed the synthesis between the traditional and modern art of painting. In 1874, together with Monet, he organised the first exhibition of the ‘independents’, which was named ‘the impressionists’ by a critic. A term he never liked, preferring to present himself as an unsentimental realist: "I know nothing of inspiration, spontaneity and temperament." He locked himself up inside his studio and used photos as a mnemonic device, whilst others went outside with the tubes of paint which had recently come onto the market. Degas considered that utter nonsense: ‘Painting is not a sport!’, besides: "I do not have the habit of painting when I am in the countryside." In his fifties he began to encounter financial problems and on top of that his eyesight began to deteriorate. However, according to Renoir only then ‘the real Degas’ emerged through his paintings. Degas himself said: "Anyone can be talented when he is twenty-five, what counts is to have talent when you are fifty."

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