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Edgar Degas (July 19, 1834-September 27 1917), born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, is regarded as one of the founding members of the school of Impressionism, though he was hesitant to adopt the term. Degas's self-description as a Realist is perhaps more accurate when considering his exacting draftsmanship, meticulous casting and sculpture, and vibrant paintings. Unlike his contemporaries such as Claude Monet, Degas took little interest in painting en plein air, and his preferred subjects were theatres, caf_s, and dance halls of late-nineteenth-century Paris, as well as scenes of daily life of the working class. His mastery of the depiction of movement makes his portraits of dancers (which number over 1,500) some of the most renowned images of fin-de-sicle Paris. As his life and career progressed, Degas became fascinated with emerging artistic techniques, and began experimenting with media such as gouache, photography, and engraving. Toward the end of his life, Degas's vision became increasingly poor, forcing him to turn his focus to sculpture until his death in 1917.
View all of Edgar Degas's work.
Obsessed above all by ballet, Degas produced over 1,500 sketches, paintings, sculptures, and prints featuring dancers. Unlike those before him who approached ballet dancers with a more traditional style of portraiture, Degas was interested in the physicality of ballet. Rather than representing the dancers solely as pristine performers, Degas depicted the dancers’ rehearsals, moments of preparation and practice, as well as their performances. Captivated by movement, Degas produced some of the most lively, vivid images of dancers within the Western canon.