Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 1834 - 1917
Born: 19 July 1834, Paris, France
Died: 27 September 1917, Paris, France
Born Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas, his banker father having changed the family name from "Degas" to "de Gas" to suggest an aristocratic lineage, a pretense that Edgar did not maintain. He attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand from 1845 to 1853, then signed up to start copying art at the Louvre. His father insisted on law school but he didn't take those studies seriously. Two years later he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and continued to study by copying masters. Some sources suggest he copied over seven hundred works of the Italian Renaissance and French Classical periods. He is best known as one of the Impressionists, having been part of their first exhibition, but disliked the appellation and painted in other styles as well as sculpting. In 1870 he joined the National Guard and mounted the parapets with a rifle, but during training it was learned that his eyes were beginning to fail and he was nearly blind during his last years. The acid-tongued artist devoted most of his time to the life of Paris; theaters, dance halls, circuses, racetracks, and most of all, the ballet. He created about 1500 paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculptures of dancers.
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Edgar Degas quotes:
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- A man is an artist only at certain moments, by an effort of will. Objects have the same appearance for everybody. permalink
- A painting is above all a product of the artist's imagination, it must never be a copy. If, at a later stage, he wants to add two or three touches from nature, of course it doesn't spoil anything. permalink
- A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people. permalink
- A picture is a thing which requires as much knavery, as much malice, and as much vice as the perpetration of a crime. Make it untrue and add an accent of truth. permalink
- A picture is an artificial work, outside nature. It calls for as much cunning as the commission of a crime. permalink
- A picture is first of all a product of the imagination of the artist; it must never be a copy. permalink
- Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. permalink
- Art is really a battle. permalink
- 'Art' is the same word as 'artifice,' that is to say, something deceitful. It must succeed in giving the impression of nature by false means. permalink
- Art is vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it. permalink
quoted by Paul Lafond in Degas (1918)
- Be sure to give the same expression to a person's face that you give to his body. permalink
- Boredom soon overcomes me when I am contemplating nature. permalink
Notebook entry (1858)
- But it's true, isn't it Pauline, that people imagine that the artists and their models spend their time getting up to all sorts of obscenities? As far as work goes, well, they paint or sculpt when they are tired of enjoying themselves. permalink
- Conversation in real life is full of half-finished sentences and overlapping talk. Why shouldn't painting be too? permalink
- Do portraits of people in familiar and typical attitudes, above all give to their face the same choice of expression that one gives to their body. permalink
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