Life and Times
Born to a wealthy family (his father was a banker), Degas had the time and means to pursue a passion for art from an early age. As a teenager he turned one of the rooms of the large family home into an art studio. His favorite pastime was visiting the Louvre in Paris to study and copy the famous masterpieces, developing his drawing and painting skills.
His father encouraged him to study law at the University of Paris, but Degas neglected his studies then dropped out to attend the Ecole des Beax-Arts. Next Degas spent 3 years in Italy, immersing himself in the pictorial world of the famous Renaissance painters.
Degas returned to Paris, and over next few years, had several works accepted for the annual Salon de Paris's show. These were mostly historical paintings, a parallel to the Italian works he had seen and loved.
But Degas's keenness for traditional paintings ebbed, to be replaced by an enthusiasm for a stylised vision of the contemporary scene. The deep dark colors became bright and vibrant, the careful brushwork became exuberant and showy. Degas made friends with CÚzanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet and Renoir - all painters who were breaking out of the realism mould. In 1874 Degas helped organise the first exhibition of works in the Impressionism style.
Degas's favorite subjects were dancers at the ballet, and the racehorses at the newly opened Longchamps racecourse. He never painted landscapes. As Degas grew older, his (already poor) eyesight began to fail completely. He spent the last years of his life as a half-blind man, aimlessly walking the streets of Paris. After his death,his personal possessions included a large number of beautiful sculptures, an art which he'd always pursued as a hobby.