Edgar Degas (Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas) was an outstanding French artist, one of the founders and among the brightest representatives of the Impressionist movement. He was born July 19, 1834 in Paris, into a wealthy family of aristocratic origin. Degas began to paint early in life, and by the age of 18 he was already clearly aware of his artistic talent and dreamt of becoming a painter. He had turned a room in his home into an artist's studio and registered as a copyist in The Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. In 1853 Degas enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris. In 1855 he left the university and was admitted to The School of Fine Arts, where Louis Lamothe became his mentor. Lamothe instilled in the young man a love for the creativity of J.D. Ingres, who remained as the main authority for Degas until the end of his life.
In 1856 Degas decided to go to Italy. He lived there for three years and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and other artists, and also drafted several sketches. Upon his return to Paris in 1859, Degas opened his own studio, where he created a number of paintings on historical themes and portraits. In 1862 the artist met Édouard Manet and joined of a group of young painters who would later become famous impressionists. Soon Degas achieved his first recognition by taking part in the Salon of 1865. In 1871, the artist traveled to London and then to Liverpool to go to America, where his relatives lived in New Orleans. He stayed there until 1873.
In 1874 the artist's father died leaving Edgar numerous debts. For the first time in his life Degas began to actively sell his works, for which he participated in Impressionist exhibitions. There were eight such exhibitions between 1874 and 1886, and Degas took part in seven of them.
Drawing was an important part of Edgar Degas's work. The artist created his first drawings in graphite. His natural talent as an observer and good visual memory helped Degas to create images that were amazing in their accuracy and naturalism. Most of Degas's drawings are sketches of human figures, most often in motion. Degas was one of the first painters in the 19th century to revive pastel almost forgotten by that time. The artist appreciated its freshness and purity of tone, velvety texture and ease of overlaying a stroke. Pastels were very important part of Degas's work of his mature and late periods. The pastel technique allowed Degas to most clearly show his talent as a draftsman. The artist often combined pastel with monotype, lithography or gouache.
Edgar Degas began creating the first small sculptures in the late 1860s. Over time, especially when Degas's eyesight began to deteriorate rapidly, he created them more. The artist worked only for himself and only with soft materials such as beeswax. Usually, the themes of Degas' sculptures repeated the subjects of his paintings: dancers, bathers or galloping jockeys.
Since 1882, the artist's eyesight began deteriorating sharply. The nature of his work and technique were changing; he turned to pastel, and then to sculpture, and also developed a great passion for photography. From the 1890s on his work reflected his more pessimistic character. In the last years of his life, Degas was almost completely blind and could not work, and spent his time restlessly wandering the streets of Paris. Edgar Degas died on September 27, 1917 in his apartment in Paris.