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Degas, Impressionist painter, was born in Paris in 1834, the eldest of five children. Between 1845 and 1852, he studied at the Lycée Louis Le Grande, then went to law school but he did not stay long due to his anticipation to become a painter. In fact, by this time, 1852, he had already been granted the opportunity to change one the rooms in the family home into a studio. The following year, he worked under Felix Joseph Barrias, copying many of the Old Masters in the Louvre. In 1854, he transferred his interests to Louis Lamothe, under whose auspices he stayed until enrolling at the École de Beaux Arts in 1855. Unfortunately though, Degas found the regime to be much too restrictive for his tastes and so did not stay long.

Degas took various journeys to Italy between the years 1854 and 1859, spending much of his time in Rome, and so with this influence and that of Ingres, the famous master of line, Degas developed an interest in history painting; his most successful is said to be The Young Spartans, 1860. He was keen though, to create his own style and genre, saying that ‘nothing in art must be seen to be accidental;’ it was essential to use the same subject matter over and over. This, for Degas, was of course his ballet observation, as well as the theatre.

Between 1872 and 1873 Degas was in America, staying with some relatives. The only product of his trip was The New Orleans Cotton exchange. Back in Paris, at the 1874 Impressionist show, Degas contributed ten works. 1881 brought about the beginning of his sculpture interest. However, The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years was in fact the only sculpture exhibited in the artist’s lifetime.

In 1886, he stopped sending his works to the shows, possibly due to poor eyesight. In later life, Degas worked more in pastel, which did not have to be so detailed. From 1890, his eyesight deteriorated so much that Degas could only produce sculptures, which he could model only using his hands. He gave up art altogether in 1908, and died nine years later in Paris.

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Portrait de M. et Mme. Louis Rouart
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