Edgar Degas Biography

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Edgar (Hilaire-Germain) Degas (1834–1917)

French painter and sculptor, born in Paris. From a prosperous mercantile family, he studied with Louis Lamothe, a follower of Ingres and although at first he seemed likely to become an academic painter, he developed into one of the great innovators of his time after coming to know Manet and his circle.

In 1874 he took part in the first Impressionist Exhibition (he exhibited in seven of their eight exhibitions).

He had private means and unlike many of the Impressionist painters did not depend on selling his pictures. After the Franco-Prussian War he turned in his painting to such unposed subjects as ballet girls and models in their off-duty moments, working girls and cabaret artists, showing a detached objectiveness of great power.

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He used a wide variety of media – oil, gouache, tempera, pastel – the last increasingly as his eyesight failed. Renoir thought him superior to Rodin as a sculptor. He was a misanthrope and anti-Semite.