Episode #3 of the course “Impressionist artists who changed the art world”
French painter Edgar Degas was one of the circle of painters known as the Impressionists. Perhaps one of the most influential, he was also one of the most temperamental, and his relationships with other notable painters of the time were strained. Preferring to be called a “realist” rather than an Impressionist, Degas refused some of the avant-garde painting techniques coming into fashion, such as an unfinished quality to the work or the practice of painting outdoors.
Born in 1834, Edgar Degas wanted to be a historical painter and underwent academic training to become one. He transitioned to painting modern life, applying the techniques of the masters as well as Japanese styles that were becoming known for the first time in Europe. He pushed stylistic boundaries and experimented boldly with color. Degas’ painting concentrates on the effects of light, but in a precise way that is unlike other Impressionists.
Woman with Chrysanthemum
One of Degas’ first notable paintings was Woman with Chrysanthemums, exhibited in 1865. He was one of the few artists who adamantly insisted on exhibiting at the Paris Salon, so his work continued to reach an international audience. His sculpture was often as controversial as his painting, like the 1881 sculpture Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, which was criticized for its realistic qualities like hair and clothing. Degas saw it as one of his most realistic, rather than avant-garde, works.
The Belleli Family
Little Dancer of Fourteen Years
Edgar Degas continued to paint and exhibit throughout the 1880s and 1890s, but he maintained strained relationships with both the art world and his fellow artists. His subjects tended to be common people of Paris life, with depictions of dancers, cafés, the races, and other scenes of urban life. In the 1880s, Degas also became fascinated with photography and began experimenting with that new medium. He painted until 1907 and sculpted until 1912, dying in 1917.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.”
“There is a kind of success that is indistinguishable from panic.”
“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”
“Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty.”
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