The Edgar Degas Collection
Known to have influenced such great artists as Picasso and Matisse, Edgar Degas was an artist known as the “painter of dancers” who also worked at perfecting his skills in photography, lithography, oil paintings, pastels, and etching. His innovations set the standards for Impressionists. He was especially intrigued by Parisian life, namely females, whether entertainment specialists, cabaret performers, or ballet dancers.
Born in Paris, young Edgar was brought up in an upper, middle-class family who was able to send him to some of the best schools. Although his mother passed away when he was only thirteen years old, Degas dedicated all his attention to his studies, books, and art. Only in 1855 did he begin attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he learned decisive linear practices that would influence his later productions.
Upon quitting his university studies in order to pursue a more real-world education, Degas set out for Italy, where he lived in Naples and Rome thanks to his father’s support. He became enthralled with medieval, Christian, and Renaissance art. He spent hours each day drawing, sketching, admiring the works, and learning what made them stand out.
After his three-year stint in Italy, Degas was ready to return to Paris where he would attempt to make a living from his art. Instead, he became a member of the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War. After only two years, he decided to travel to the United States to visit his family who had ties in New Orleans, namely in the lucrative business of cotton fields. During this time, he became enthralled with painting horses, racetracks, cafes, and ballets. By this time, he was becoming quite famous in art circles for his previous works and was actually commissioned for a few pieces that brought him enough money to live comfortably.
When Edgar Degas returned to Paris, he found that he was tired of displaying his work in the Salon and joined more closely with a group of impressionists of the time. However, his paintings reveal an almost innate urge not to conform completely to all the whims of the day. Degas still worked on portraits and produced some of the best works admired in Paris today. In his portraits of family, in one called the Belleli Family, he captures a particular emotion and humaneness that leaves admirers of Renaissance-like art in awe. Other portraits include Head of a Young Woman, and Estelle Muson. His later works are composed of carefully planned snapshots of Parisian highbrow life in its regularity. His paintings of Absinthe and Dancers Practicing at the Bar are of particular note because of their real-world appeal. By his later years, he was dabbling in pastels, glazes, and worked sculpting bronze.