Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

French, b. 1834 - d. 1917


Edgar Degas, a French artist well known for his painting, sculpture, prints, and drawings, was an influential member of the Impressionist group, though he preferred to be identified as a Realist or Independent.

Early Life

Degas was born in Paris on July 9, 1834. His father, Auguste, was a wealthy banker with an interest in music; his American mother, Celestine, was an amateur opera singer. When Edgar, the eldest of five siblings, was a child, the family spelled its name “de Gas”; as an adult he chose to switch to the less complicated Degas.

At age 11, Edgar Degas attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, where his subjects were Latin, Greek, and ancient history. He also developed an early interest in art; by the age of 18, he had registered at the Louvre as a copyist and turned one of his rooms at home into a studio. In 1853, he enrolled to study law at the University of Paris, as expected by his father. A meeting with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in 1855 was a turning point in his life and the same year, he gained admission to the École des Beaux-Arts. After only a year at the school, Degas left to travel, paint, and study in Italy for the next three years. He made several sketches of the paintings and frescoes he saw in Italy and was deeply influenced by the work of the Italian Renaissance painters.

Return to France

Degas began working on the “Bellelli Family” towards the end of his studies in Italy and continued working on it from the time he returned to France in 1859 till 1867. He also started working on grand historical paintings with the intention of submitting his work to the Paris Salon. The Salon accepted his “Misfortunes of the City of Orléans” in 1865 and, after this, Degas moved away from painting academic subjects.

Degas met Édouard Manet in 1862 and the two artists developed a lifelong friendship. Both Degas and Manet disliked the traditional art establishment and believed that the artists needed to seek out more modern techniques and subject matters. By the late 1860s, Degas became part of a group of avant-garde artists in Paris, including Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley, who were interested in finding ways for artists to engage with the modern world. Soon after, with the start of the Franco-Prussian War, Degas left France, returning only in 1873.

The Impressionist Years

Thoroughly disillusioned with the Salon by the time he returned to Paris, Degas and a group of artists worked towards organizing an independent show. The Impressionists, as they came to be known, held eight exhibitions, in seven of which Degas showed his work. In spite of being an important member of the group, Degas was uncomfortable with the Impressionist approach of painting outdoors and had little in common with some of the other group members. He also never used the Impressionist color fleck. The group finally broke up in 1886.

In spite of his conservatism with regard to the Impressionists, Degas had a modern approach in picking subjects. These included scenes of Parisian life and the city’s denizens, painted from radical perspectives. Degas was a regular visitor to the opera house and a subject he revisited throughout his career was ballerinas at work. He drew from Parisian high society as well as the lives of the poor and marginalized, including prostitutes, laborers and laundresses.

Later Years

By the 1880s, Degas began collecting works of other artists, including El Greco, Ingres, Delacroix, and some of his own contemporaries, including Pissarro, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. He also began experimenting with photography, using friends and fellow artists as models. Some of the photographs were used as references for his paintings.

Degas’s eyesight began to weaken in the 1880s and eventually became so weak that he could no longer create any work after 1912.

His work received much acclaim during his lifetime and he was considered one of the boldest and most innovative painters among his contemporaries. He died in Paris on September 27, 1917, at the age of 83.


Though he was a highly acclaimed artist, there are mixed opinions on Degas due to his anti-Semitic views and what some regard as misogynistic overtones in his portrayal of women.

Born:July 9, 1834


See his work at:

HONOLULU: Honolulu Museum of Art

LONDON: The National Gallery

NEW YORK: Metropolitan Museum of Art

PARIS: Musee d’Orsay

KITAKYUSHU: Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art

Died:September 27, 1917

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 Sc?ne de ballet by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Sc?ne de ballet

Bonhams, London

February 3, 2015


 ?tude De Draperie by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

?tude De Draperie

Sotheby's, New York

December 15, 2014

$31,250  USD

 Pierre August Renoir and Stephane Mallarm? by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Pierre August Renoir and Stephane Mallarm?

Sotheby's, New York

December 11, 2014

$93,750  USD

 Horse Studies by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Horse Studies

Auctionata, Berlin

December 3, 2014

$18,581  USD

 Au Louvre, la peinture, Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Au Louvre, la peinture, Mary Cassatt

Artcurial - Briest, Poulain, F. Tajan, Paris

December 3, 2014


 Deux danseuses vues en buste, les bras lev? by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Deux danseuses vues en buste, les bras lev?

Artcurial - Briest, Poulain, F. Tajan, Paris

December 2, 2014

$60,597  USD

 Violoniste by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas


Christie's, New York

November 6, 2014

$106,250  USD

 Apr?s Le Bain by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

Apr?s Le Bain

Christie's, New York

November 6, 2014

$122,500  USD

 Paysage by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas


Christie's, New York

November 6, 2014

$68,750  USD

Artworks for sale

Edgar Degas

La Conversation


“Inventing Impressionism” at Britain’s National Gallery

By Nicholas Forrest | January 5, 2015

The British National Gallery’s exhibition “Inventing Impressionism” is the UK’s first exhibition devoted to visionary French art dealer and gallerist Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) – the man who...

Masterpieces from the Burrell Collection at Bonhams, London

By Nicholas Forrest | January 2, 2015

Bonhams London is hosting an exhibition at its New Bond Street headquarters of more than 50 treasures from the collection of Scottish shipping magnate Sir William Burrell who donated his...

Masterpieces on Madison January 24-31

By Michelle Tay | December 25, 2014

Master Drawings New York will present a mix of pen and inks, charcoal drawings, oil on paper sketches and watercolours, created by iconic artists working from the 16th century onwards.“People who...

Bonhams' Impressionist and Modern Art Sale

By Liza Muhlfeld | November 7, 2014

Bonhams New YorkNovember 4, 2014Impressionist & Modern Art45 lots sold for $4,143,975 Taking first place at this sale of Impressionist and Modern art was Henry Moore’s 27-inch bronze...

Feats of Feet: Ferragamo's New Exhibition Opens at Pitti

By Michelle Tay | June 18, 2014

In a feat of an exhibition about feet, artwork by Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, Gino Severini and Fernand Léger, Georges Roualt and Alexander Calder, on loan from numerous prestigious...

Art Collections of Holocaust Victims Break Records at Sotheby’s London

By Ashitha Nagesh | February 6, 2014

Sotheby’s London saw several record-breaking results in their evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art yesterday, February 5. The auction realised £163.5m, which is the highest total ever...

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