AN ODE TO CLASSICAL BALLET
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917), PAINTER.
“They call me the painter of dancers. They don’t understand that the dancer has been for me a pretext for painting pretty fabrics and for rendering movement.” Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was born in Paris on July 19, 1834. Born into an aristocratic family with a tremendous interest in art and culture. When Degas decided to leave his law studies in favour of studying at the Ecole de Beau Arts his family stood always behind him. As a result life as an artist was not that bad for Degas. His family would always support him.
Degas was a great admirer of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and one can see this in his early works.
Degas befriended himself with several Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. His closest friend became Edouard Manet. They all came together at the Café Guerbois in Paris. Here they had lively discussions about life and art. Probably not just discussions but also some “artistic” fights.
This is what Edgar had to say about this meetings with his impressionist colleagues “What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.”
Different from the other Impressionist painters who sought their subjects in nature, Degas looked for subjects in city life. He selected scenes from urban settings. For example bars, cafes, horseraces, theatre and stages. He brought the human form into the centre of his paintings.
THE LIGHTNESS OF BALLET
Degas was really fascinated by ballet and ballerina’s. He visited ballet rehearsals where he observed the dancers. In his studio he tried to transfer the lightness of the dancers and their movements into his paintings.
By 1880 Degas was one of the most popular painters in France. Nonetheless he started to feel isolated due to his failing eyesight. He started to work in pastels and the intensity of colours became more and more important. Eventually he became almost blind and as a consequence he had to give up painting completely.
He died in Paris on September 27, 1917.
View our online gallery to check out more works by Edgar Degas:
Monique Lucy Weberink, January 2017