Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, real surname - De Gas (July, 19, 1834, Paris - September, 27, 1917, Paris) - was a famous French painter, draughtsman, etcher, sculptor, photographer. He is widely considered to be one of the founders of Impressionist movement, however, he refused to be called Impressionist and preferred to be considered a follower of great French realist painters such as Ingres and Delacroix. He hugely influenced artists of further generations, e.g. Walter Sickert, Jean-Louis Forain and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
He studied arts at Ecole des Beuax-Arts under the tutorship of Louis Lamothe and studied art in Italy, where he spent three years drawing and copying masterpieces of Renaissance artists. At the beginning of his artistic career he saw himself as a history painter and even exhibited at Salon in Paris with a number of historical paintings (The Young Spartans, 1860; The Daugher of Jepthah, 1860; Semiramidis Building Babylon, 1860). But later his work underwent a gradual change of subject-matter choice - he started painting modern life and in a more modern, non-classical technique. In 1864 he got acquainted with Edouard Monet and in 1874 became one of the main organizers of the first Impressionist exhibition. However, he rejected the term Impressionism and included works of realist painters in exhibitions of the group, that caused discord within the movement and its subsequent end in 1886.
Albeit conservative in his views and suspicious to all technological innovations of his age he readily embraced photography: he made photographs as self-valued pieces of art and as material for further reworking in painting or etching. His conservative views manifested itself during the notorious Dreyfus Affair when his Anti-Semitism came to the fore: he lost - actually, dismissed - all of his Jewish friends, art dealers and models. He was convinced individualist - he never married and died all on his own, practically blind (his eyesight had been gradually decreasing after his taking part in Franco-Prussian War in the beginning of 1870's) in 1917.
Degas's main interest was in figures of people, he very rarely painted landscapes. He is widely known for his depictions of horses and dancers - he is a highly acclaimed master of movement depiction. Interestingly enough, his inclination to paint ballet dancers - that is Degas's carte-de-visite - was dictated by purely financial pressures: he was to help his brother with money, and dancers were easy to paint, in the artist's own words.
Degas always painted in his studio and mocked Impressionists for their working outdoors. He often exploited one and the same subject changing composition, colouring or treatment. He was a non-inspirational, schematic and systematic artist in his approach to the act of painting. He said that what he did resulted in reflecting and learning works of great masters of the past and reject even notion of spontaneity.
Notwithstanding his realistic roots he is treated as one of the main representatives of the Impressionism. This attribution is correct to some extent, because of his inclination towards modernity, colour and style experiments and personal involvement with the movement and its certain members.
Among his famous works are the following: "The Belleli Family" (1867), "Woman with Chrysanthemums" (1865), "Place de la Concorde" (1875), "Musicians in the Orchestra" (1872), "At the Races" (1880), "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years" (sculpture, 1881), "At the Café Châteaudun" (1871), "Ballet Dancers" (1900), "Three Dancers in Violet Tutus" (1896).