Degas, Edgar

1834 – 1917

Born in Paris to a noble French father and a Creole mother, Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas had a privileged childhood with a firm grounding in art and music. Although he initially studied law but it quickly became clear that painting was his real talent and at the age of 21 he was admitted to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was granted permission to copy masterpieces at The Louvre and it was here that he met the people who were to become his fellow Impressionists – Manet, Morisot, Cassatt and others.

Degas had a curious mind and traveled extensively including the birthplace of his mother – New Orleans. He explored the new medium of photography and experimented with various printing methods such as monotypes, etching and lithography. He was considered the best draughtsman of the Impressionist group and was the only one of them to produce a significant body of sculpture.

Degas was a solitary man and suffered from a variety of health problems, most significantly the loss of his eyesight by the late 1890s. Fortunately, his compulsive creativity left behind a considerable oeuvre including large numbers of etchings, soft ground etchings, aquatints, lithographs and monotypes.