Edgar Degas born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas; (19 July 1834 - 27 September 1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his renditions of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.
At the beginning of his career, he wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.
Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the eldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. Degas (he adopted this less grandiose spelling of his family name when he became an adult) began his schooling at age eleven, enrolling in the Lycee Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was thirteen, and his father and grandfather became the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth.
Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycee in 1853, at age 18, with a baccalaureat in literature, he had turned a room in his home into an artist's studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in the Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris, in November 1853, but applied little effort to his studies. In 1855, Degas met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, whom he revered, and whose advice he never forgot: "Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist." In April of that year, Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres. In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1858, while staying with his aunt's family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece, The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but-contrary to conventional practice-he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention-a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait.
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