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<At age eleven, Degas (as a young man he abandoned the more pretentious spelling of the family name) began his schooling with enrollment in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, graduating in 1853 with a baccalauréat in literature.

His mother's death when he was 13 years old, caused him much heartache and left three sons and two daughters to be raised by his father. He was educated in the classics, including Latin, Greek, and ancient history, at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Edgar Degas set out to practice law after finishing secondary school. After completing studies at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he went to Italy where he stayed for five year studying and copying meticulously the old masters of the Renaissance. From 1856 to 1859, Degas traveled through Italy, where his sister lived. He mostly stayed at the houses of relatives in Naples and Capodimonte. After returning from Italy in 1859, Degas continued his education by copying paintings at the Louvre; he was to remain an enthusiastic copyist well into middle age.

In 1859 Degas opened a studio in Paris and portraiture and historical subjects occupied his time. An example is his painting based on the biblical story, 'Daughter of Jephthah’, an incident from the Old Testament. The painting received rave reviews, and is regarded as one of Degas's finest. He first exhibited in the Salon of 1865, contributing, a work executed in pastel. In 1880 Degas showed his powers of observation in a set of "Portraits of Criminals. Though his historical and Biblical work was a commercial success, Edgar Degas was soon drawn to more contemporary subjects.


In the 1870's that Degas acquired his enduring reputation as a "painter of dancers". Degas so favored the ballet that he created about 1,500 works in a variety of media depicting all aspects of dance—preparation, rehearsal, waiting in the wings, as in Dancers in Pink, c. 1876, and the performance, itself. He became a master at skillfully painting and drawing the human body in motion. More than half of the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of this master are devoted to the activities of ballerinas. The Dance Class was exhibited in 1876 at the second Impressionist exhibition. The subject of the work is a dance class conducted by the famous ballet master Jules Perrot. The work is generally thought to be a tribute to the teacher rather than a depiction of an actual class conducted by him.


At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, (a conflict between France and the German state of Prussia) Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. He served in the artillery (the part of the army that deals with weaponry. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him.

Edgar Degas’ eyesight began to fail him in the 1870-1871's perhaps as a result of an injury suffered during his military service. The medical cause is not known, but from this time, he had problems with his eyes. As a result of this, he turned to sculpture. He produced bronze statues of horses and ballet dancers. In 1881 he exhibited a sculpture, Little Dancer (a bronze casting of which is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) Following his death in 1917, more than 150 sculptural works were found in his studio, of which the subjects mainly consisted of race horses and dancers. He left more than 2000 oil paintings and pastels

In his late years the artist's eyesight deteriorated more and more. He was unable to create oil paintings and focused his artistic creativity on sculptures. As his vision progressively grew worse, he became increasingly more reclusive. The career of Edgar Degas spans 60 years of the 83 which he lived. During the remaining years of his life, Edgar Degas was nearly totally blind. He died on September 27, 1917, in Paris and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris, France. After his death, sculptures were cast using wax casts he's prepared in 1880.


Japanese prints were very popular at the end of the nineteenth century and had a great influence on the French impressionists. The dark palette that bore the influence of Dutch painting gave way to the use of vivid colors and bold brushstrokes. From the mid-1870s Degas worked increasingly in pastel (pale, light crayons). Degas preferred to paint the working classes. Almost thirds of his vast oeuvre consists of jockeys, singers, ballet dancers, laundresses -- and milliners as we see here. The hats, arranged on stands at random on her worktable, are more prominent in the composition than she is and, with their colorful ribbons and floral wreathes, have the decorative appearance of a fashionable modern still life.

He was one of the admirers of Japanese prints. And the influence can be seen in some of his daring compositions using large areas of flat colors. Degas’s pastel art is characterized by his non-adherence to the established Parisian art techniques and styles. He is known to have experimented with new Japanese techniques and subjects. This included his use of Japanese woodprint and new graphic techniques.

He experimented with media and developed a technique called peintre à l'essence, which he used for this drawing and Woman with Field-glasses. This is coloured pigment from which the oil has been extracted and which has been thinned with turpentine to enable it to dry quickly.

Degas experimented with an array of techniques, breaking up surface textures with cross-hatching, contrasting dry pastel with wet, and using gouache and watercolors to soften the contours of his figures.

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