Edgar Degas, whom lived from 1834 to 1917, was a French painter (who also specialised as a graphite artists and sculptor). He was the son of a wealthy banker, who also happened to love the concept of art. One internet source, edgar-degas.org explains that ‘Degas began to paint seriously early in his life’, and that ‘by eighteen he had … begun making copies of the Louvre.’ According to The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Degas entered the ‘Ecole Des Beaux-Arts’ in 1822-69, where he studied under Louis Lamothe. Biography.com describes that Degas apparently ‘enjoyed capturing female dancers and played with unusual angles and ideas around centering’ at this stage of his life. This source also quotes that Degas ‘studied the work of more contemporary artists such as Ingres and Delacroix’. Whilst at the Louvre, theartstory.org comments that this was where Degas met Manet, ‘who by chance was copying the same painting’.At this point in his life, during 1861, Degas was introduced to the ‘Young Impressionists’, and that he ‘abandoned historical pictures and moved to contemporary subjects’, says The Oxford Dictionary of Art. He started painting subjects like racing scenes, ballet, theatre, circus, rehearsals, cafe scenes, and laundressers.Degas took a pause from painting in 1870 when Franco-Prussian war broke out, and he ‘enlisted in the National Guard’, quotes edgar-degas.org. His eyesight had been a constant worry for him since his rifle training, and feared it would get worse as he grew older. After the war, in 1872, he travelled to New Orleans to avoid the ‘tumult of the Paris Commune’, and stayed with his brother Rene. Whilst he stayed in the United States, he worked on a variety of paintings, mostly depicting his family membersHe returned to Paris in 1873, however shortly found out that his brother, Rene, had ‘amassed enormous business debts’. He sold a collection of inherited art and his house in order to preserve his family name. Eventually, his financial situation had improved through sales of his own work, and moved on to collecting works from artists he admired such as El Greco, Manet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.The source edgar-degas.org explains that in the late 1880’s Degas grew a passion for photography, and photographed many of his friends, ‘often by lamp light’. Other photographs of dancers and nudes were used as references for his own paintings. Also during this time, as The Oxford Dictionary of Art puts it, he also found a great influence in Japanese prints, and was interested in conveying the impression of movement. Degas’ eyesight also began to fail him during this period, and he mostly took to working with pastels; his colours grew stronger and compositions became more simplified. He was also a restless experimenter, and often mixed tempera and pastel, developing the technique peinture à l’essence.From 1880 onwards, Degas modelled in wax and exhibited only one bronze in his life. Degas devoted more time to modelling horses in action, women at their toilet, or nude dancers in characteristic postures. He painted a lot less, according to biography.com. He put his energy entirely into selling his artworks and becoming an avid art collector, but nevertheless lived a reclusive life for the last of his 20 years.Materials and Techniques:Sources: http://www.southafricanartists.com/contemporaryart/PastelArt.aspDegas, for most of his life, worked in pastel and charcoal, occasionally using graphite where he could when sketching out the nude. However, it was his use of pastel techniques that helped create the dynamic flow in his works; making them look as though they were in motion. His figures had blurred lines in which enhanced the thought of them moving. Some of his works are noticeably cropped and angled from different viewpoints, and this is clearly a technique influenced by his interest in photography. Degas’ pastel art is shaped by his non-adherence to the ‘Parisian’ art techniques. His experimental styles of graphic and woodprint techniques were influenced by Japanese works, more specifically Katsushika Hokusai – a print artist.Degas’ techniques and styles changed since his early works, which were depictions of people who were usually categorised; this included women and what type of profession they had. As time progressed, his use with pastel became much dense and experimental.His obsession with textures, form, and colour also played into his use of style and technique. He used these elements on bathing women; the focus not on the facial expressions, but instead the movement of the body – from the shoulders to the lower back. Again, he was influenced by photography, and his techniques mirrored his interest in varying composition types.One of his used techniques was named peinture a l’essence. It is the pigment from which the oil has been removed is thinned with turpentine to promote rapid drying.
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