Edgar Degas-Not the Typical Impressionist
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas was born on July 19, 1834 in Paris. His father, Auguste, was a banker from Paris and his mother, Celestine, was from New Orleans. The family changed the name from Degas in order to sound more aristocratic and Degas changed it back early in his career. Although his father wanted him to take over his banking business for him and get a law degree, Degas always knew that he wanted to be an artist. When Degas was 18 years old, he was given permission from the Lourve in Paris to copy works of the masters.
At age 20, Degas was taken by a family friend to meet his Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Degas was fascinated by Ingresís classicism. Ingres and Degas both believed that drawing was of great importance in producing a great work of art. Later that year Degas was accepted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he studied under a student of Ingresís.
Degas was very insistent that Impressionist artists should have an exhibition to show off their art work. He founded the Societe Anonyme des Artistes. They held exhibitions and published a journal. He was the main founder of these exhibitions that were later known as Salons. At these Salons, artists such as Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Manet, and Degas himself would display their best works of art for criticism. At the Salons Degasís work, like everyone elseís wasnít looked upon highly. Most people didnít realize how great these artists were until after they died.
Degas went through many styles of art before finally settling on Realism. He went through a stage where he was painting and drawing in the Classical style. He realized that he was not really a Classicist or an Impressionist, but a Realist. Degas differed from other artists of the time in that he did not like to paint landscapes. He liked to draw and paint people going about their normal business, almost like taking photograph. This is shown in his work, The Belleli Family. You can see by looking at it that the family is in a relaxed state. The father isnít even looking at the ďcameraĒ. The little girl on the right is shifting her position at the moment. Degas did not like to make paintings necessarily pretty. He detested that people such as Renoir would do that. Degasís favorite thing to paint was ballerinas practicing back stage and in dressing rooms. He also loved to paint horses at the race track, and the theatre. He also liked to paint normal people such as laundresses and women bathing. He enjoyed painting women bathing and combing and normal things that women do instead of having them just stand there and look pretty.
Other artists of this time such as Monet and Renoir were studying the effects of light on a painting, and different brush strokes and color combinations. Degas was studying Japanese prints. These prints inspired him to try different visual angles and asymmetry, something that many of the other artists of the time would never have attempted. The only artist who even comes close to Degasís style during this time period is Edouard Manet who is considered a Realist and also painted normal people doing normal things.