Edgar Degas (French, born July 19, 1834–died September 27, 1917) is renowned as a major Impressionist artist, celebrated for his depictions of Parisian urban life and his investigations of color, light, and composition in several media, such as painting, sculpture, and pastels. Degas was born Hiliare-Germain-Edgar Degas in Paris, and first studied law before pursuing art at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1855. In the 1870s, he joined the circle of Impressionist artists known for their animated, expressionistic brushstrokes and explorations of the temporal effects of light and color in painting. In addition to painting scenes of leisure activity and high society, Degas often depicted the poor and marginalized in Parisian contemporary life, including images of prostitutes, laborers, laundresses, and young dancers. He frequently experimented with depicting movement, light, and the pictorial composition in new ways, often portraying his subjects at odd angles or abruptly cropping his scenes.
Beginning in the mid-1880s, his eyesight began to fail, and he increasingly used pastel to create blurred edges and softer forms, used in several of his famous series of ballet dancers and female bathers. In the last decade of his life, Degas’s eyesight suffered to the point that he could no longer produce any work after 1912. Degas’s work received increasing critical praise toward the end of his life, and he is now considered one of the boldest and most innovative of his Impressionist contemporaries.
Degas died in Paris in 1917, at 83 years old. His works are in the collections of prominent institutions around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery and the British Museum in London, the Kunstmuseum Basel, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel.