Edgar Degas 1834-1917 BACK

Degas actually hated the Impressionists and worshipped the act of drawing. Though not in agreement with the Impressionist style, Degas aligned himself with the movement from its beginning in protest against the sterile academic theory and practice. Degas strove for perfection in every possible way. He experimented with graphic media, perfected the art of pastel, made monotypes and etchings and modelled in clay and wax in order to understand the movements of his dancers and racehorses. He never painted on the spot, but composed only after much observation, many studies and a most intimate knowledge of the subject, relying on a prodigious visual memory. Therefore it is a tragic irony that Degas suffered from poor eyesight, eventually not being able to paint at all, and then shunning society in his later years.

An excerpt from Degas by Linda Bolton:
Degas, unlike the Impressionists, did not favor working directly from life or painting out of doors. His concerns were with drawing, form and composition, not with the rapid recording of transient effects of light, and his chosen subject was people, not landscape. He made endless studies for his paintings, filling whole notebooks with drawings of hands, or a particular architectural feature for a background, and for his racecourse scenes he studied horses in close quarters at the Haras-du-Pin stud as well as making small clay or wax models to help him understand the animals'anatomy and the effects of motion. He believed in committing a subject to memory through repeated drawing, and when he felt he had arrived at a full understanding of it he would synthesize his many studies into a thought-out composition.

He experimented endlessly with media, often using oil paints in an unconventional way, much thinned with turpentine and applied to paper or cardboard rather than canvas. He was also greatly interested in all the printing methods - etching, lithography, dry point and aquatint - and he virtually invented the technique of monotype, which has been popular with artists ever since. He was at his most innovative with pastels, which he frequently used in combination with monotype, softening them over steam or mixing them with fixative to form a paint-like paste which he could then work into with a stiff brush or his fingers.


Image List

Self Portrait, 1855

Scene of War in the Middle Ages, 1861

Manet Leaning on a Table, 1864

The Dancing Lesson, 1871

L'Absinthe, 1876

The Race Track: Amatuer Jockeys near a Carriage, 1877

The Laundresses, 1884

Singer in Green, 1884

Woman in Tub, 1884

The Tub, 1886

Helen Rouart in her Father's Study, 1886

After the Bath Woman Drying Herself, 1890

Blue Dancers, 1890

Landscape, 1890

Billiard Room at Menil-Hubert, 1892

Self Portrait, 1895

Woman Drying Herself, 1896

Village Street, 1896

Dancers in the Wings, 1897

Dancers, 1897

Two Dancers, 1898

Four Dancers, 1899

Russian Dancers,1899

Group of Dancers, 1900

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This listing of artists is not official. It is merely intended to group the artists in an easy to navigate format.

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