Edgar Degas
French artist



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Edgar Degas
French artist

Birth Date

July 19, 1834

Death Date

September 27, 1917

Quick Fact


I always got the sense that someone who liked painting ballerinas was kind of a nice guy.

You’d think watching Vincent Cassel play an angry boy ballerina in The Black Swan would make that less likely. And it's true, the world isn't full of twirls and tu-tus. Degas painted lots of pretty dancers, but he was kind of a bummer to hang out with.

This may have been due to the fact that when his father passed away, Degas had to give up easy livin’ to save his brother, Rene’s skin. Rene had secretly accumulated a load of debt and poor Degas had to sell his house and give up an inherited art collection to preserve the family’s good name. But don’t go feeling sorry for him just yet…

Degas managed to make some money doing art shows with a group of artists who came to be known as the Impressionists. He hated being associated with that term though, and was kind of a rotten apple in the group. Degas had strong anti-Semitic feelings and none of his peeps wanted to hang out with him anymore because he was a mean grouch. Folks described him as an “old curmudgeon” and even his buddy Renoir was like, “What a creature he was, that Degas. All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn’t stay till the end!”. Good for you Renoir, nobody likes a sourpuss, an anti-Semite AND a misanthrope! Seems like Degas thought this was the life for the artist though, and stayed a lonely bachelor till the end to prove it. Talk about making a point, but one would think the guy would’ve caved a bit when he started to go blind. No need to fly solo when your vision’s been compromised just to show that you stick to your solitary guns! But Degas reveled in his isolation until the very end.

He did manage to make some purdy paintings though. Most notably the ballerina variety, but there were also some cool portraits and nudes thrown into the mix. Degas was clumped together with the Impressionists of his time but he claimed to be way different from his contemporaries. Impressionism was all about seizing the moment and quick and dirty drawings/paintings, but Degas was nowhere near as hasty. He said about his work that “no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing.” Does anyone still need convincing regarding his obvious lack of a sunny disposition? A jackass with artistic genius is the worst!



Born July 19, 1834 – Died September 27, 1917

Mom was creole from New Orleans, and dad a banker from Paris.

Banker dad kept Degas comfortable until he (dad) died. Then it turned out Degas' brother had racked up enormous debts, everything had to be sold to cover them, and Degas had to work for a living. Moral: don't count on an inheritance when you have a douche for a brother.

Degas was also a bit unpleasant himself. He was an anti Semite and argued with everyone. Renoir said of him "What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn't stay till the end."

Had problems with his eyesight (inconvenient for a painter). They got worse over time and he ended up wandering the streets of Paris almost blind.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (US: /dˈɡɑː/ or UK: /ˈdɡɑː/; born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, French: [ilɛːʁ ʒɛʁmɛ̃ ɛdɡaʁ də ɡɑ]; 19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. Regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, he rejected the term, preferring to be called a realist. He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his rendition of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.

At the beginning of his career, Degas wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classical art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Edgar Degas.