Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas was born on July 19, 1834, at 8 rue Saint-George's in Paris. His father, Auguste, a banker, was French, and his mother, Célestine, an American from New Orleans. The family name "Degas" had been changed to "De Gas" by some family members in Naples and France in order to sound more aristocratic; the preposition indicated a name derived from land holdings. Degas went back to using the original spelling sometime after 1870, and that is how we spell his name today.
He was destined for a law career, but instead entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he studies with Louis Lamothe. There he became a painter and sculptor.
Degas was associated with the Impressionists, taking an active part in there firsts exhibitions, but his individual choice of subject matter, handling of composition, and emphasis of drawing distinguished his works from theirs. He worked with a number of media: oil, pastel, lithography, engraving, and sculpture.
From the mid-1850s through the mid-1870s Degas explored many types of subject matter. He copied works by earlier artists and executed his own history paintings, portraits, and scenes of daily life. Degas eventually ended his efforts at history painting and devoted more attention to portraiture, turning images of relatives and friends into complex psychological studies.
His oils and pastels depict the inhabitants of the world of sports, business, ballet, and the cafes in their self-conscious posturing and characteristic gestures. He has numerous paintings of jockeys, dancers, laundresses and prostitutes. Another favorite subject was a model at her bath. Degas' observation of movement resulted in the radical compositions that preserved the character of his subjects. As Degas' subject matter became more contemporary, so did his artistic style. Early on, Degas presents people as individuals, whereas works from the mid-1870s on categorize women in particular according to their professions. The laundresses, milliners, and dancers represent types rather than specific individuals. Degas' handling of paint and use of color also become bolder and more experimental. Degas' collection of repeated poses and postures speaks to his preoccupation with texture, color, and form.
In the later years of his life, despite failing eyesight, he continues to paint his women models in varied, unarranged poses. Soon after he began to let him self go. He
stopped caring for his dress or trimming his beard. He had chronic bronchitis and bladder problems. Degas continued to work as long as he was in the house of Rue Victor-Masse.
During the last years of his life, he was seen walking through the streets of Paris, ignoring the traffic. Edgar died on September 27, 1917.
He is well represented in the Louvre in Paris. Some paintings displayed there include The glass of Absinthe, Laundresses, and Prima Ballerina. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. in New York, Pouting, and Women with Chrysanthemums are on display for all to see. Degas is commonly regarded as on of the greatest masters of 19th century French art