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Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917)





1834 Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas is born on July 19, 1834, at 8 rue Saint-Georges 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.

1845 Degas goes to The Lycee Luois-le-Grand.

1853 Passes his Baccalaureat and matriculates in the university faculty of law. Visits Felix Barrias's studio. Copies Mantegna's Crucifixion.

1854 Copies Raphael paintings at the Louvre.

1855 In April enrols at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the painting and sculpture faculty.

1856 July: Lives and travels in Naples, and later continues to Rome.

1859 Returns to Paris. Works on portrait of the Belleli family.

1860 Travels to Italy for a brief stay. Stays with Valpincons at Menil-Hubert in Normandy. Degas isparticulary interested in historical art.

1862 Meets Édouard Manet in the Louvre while copying Velázquez's painting The Infanta Margarita directly onto a copper plate.

1864 Visits Ingres.

1865 Paints A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon?).

1865 through 1870
Exhibits at the Salon; these works are not given significant attention by critics.

1866 Paints The Collector of Prints.

1868 Degas begins getting recognition as an artist. He is a frequent visitor and prominent member of the group who visit the Café Guerbois located at 11 grande rue des Batignolles (today 9 avenue de Clichy). There he gathers with other avant-garde artists such as Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Fantin-Latour, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Camille Pissarro. Registers for the last time as a copyist at the Louvre.

1869 Paints portraits . Stays with Manet at Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Does landscapes from memory and close studies of horses and jockeys.

1870 Degas writes a letter to the Salon jury that is published in the Paris Journal on April 12, 1870; the letter offers suggestions on ways to improve the exhibition of works of art.

July 19 The Franco-Prussian War begins after Napoleon III of France and Otto von Bismarck of Prussia order their respective troops to arms. Degas enters the National Guard as a volunteer.


1871 During the Paris Commune he stays at Menil-Hubert.

1872 Travels to London and to New Orleans, where his relatives are in the cotton trade. Does a number of portraits, among them Portraits in a New Orleans Cotton Office.

1873 The art dealer Durand-Ruel buys Degas's Woman Ironing.

December 27
Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot, and Cézanne form the Société Anonyme Coopérative à Capital Variable des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc. (the Société Anonyme des Artistes) devoted to free, nonjuried exhibitions, the sale of works exhibited, and the publication of an art journal.


February: his father dies in Napoly.

April 15,
Opening of the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes at 35 boulevard des Capucines, now considered the first Impressionists exhibition. Degas's works receive mixed reviews. Some critics detest them, while others write about him favorably and name him the leading figure among the new group of artists later known as the Impressionists. Degas exhibits The Dancing Class (1871).

The Société Anonyme des Artistes dissolves due to poor attendance and a general lack of interest on the part of the public.

1876, March 30,
Opening of the "2me Exposition de Peinture" at Galerie Durand-Ruel, 11 rue Le Peletier (the second Impressionists exhibition); Degas exhibits twenty-two works of art, including The Dance Class (1874) and Woman Ironing (1873).

By this time, Degas has befriended Edmond Duranty (1833-1880), the critic and author of The New Painting: Concerning the Group of Artists Exhibiting at the Durand-Ruel Galleries. Duranty publishes this text as a thirty-eight-page pamphlet in which he discusses the problems of academic painting and the role of avant-garde artists in revitalizing painting. Duranty does not mention the names of the Impressionists, but his examples include references to specific subjects painted by Degas. It was clear to his readers that Duranty considered Degas the most important member of the group as evident in passages about the importance of the setting or background of a picture, the significance of using subjects from modern life, and the need for adopting new artistic practices and stylistic devices in order to accomplish these goals.

1877, April 4,
Opening of the "3me Exposition de Peinture" (which was actually the first time the exhibition was considered an exhibition of Impressionists painters), at 6 rue Le Peletier; Degas exhibits twenty-three paintings and pastels, including Dancers Practicing at the Bar. He also shows three groups of monotypes.

1878 The Cotton Office is bought by the Musee des Beaux-Arts at Pau for 200 franc, the first of his works be hung in a museum. His pictures are exhibited in America for the first time.

1879 April 10,
Opening of the "4me Exposition de Peinture" (the fourth Impressionists exhibition), at 28 avenue de l'Opéra; Degas shows twenty paintings and pastels and five fans. Many critics praise his work and single him out from his contemporaries. Others persist in responding to his work with sarcasm and derision.

1880, April 1,
Opening of the "5me Exposition de Peinture" (the fifth Impressionists exhibition), at 10 rue des Pyramides. Degas shows paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints. Degas receives high praise from the critics.

In a letter to his friend Ludovic Halévy Degas laments that he has to paint ballet scenes over and over because of the demand by the public.

1881, April 2,
Opening of the "6me Exposition de Peinture" (the sixth Impressionists exhibition), at 35 boulevard des Capucines. Degas exhibits eight works of art. The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, which was supposed to be exhibited in the 1880 show, is finally installed in the exhibition space two weeks after the show opens. This sculpture of a young ballerina is made with actual ribbon, tutu, and hair. Reviews range from labeling the sculpture a "masterpiece" to condemning the artist as "cruel."

Durand-Ruel is Degas's principal art dealer during the 1880s.

1882, March 1,
Opening of the "7me Exposition des artistes indépendantes" (the seventh Impressionists exhibition), at 251 rue Saint-Honoré. Degas does not participate in this exhibition because of friction between himself and the artist Paul Gauguin.

1883 Durand-Ruel exhibits Degas and other artists in London

1886 Twenty-three works by Degas are exhibited in New York at the exhibition "Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris," shown at the American Art Galleries and the National Academy of Design.

1886, May 15,
Opening of the "8me Exposition de Peinture" (the last Impressionists exhibition) at 1 rue Laffitte; Degas exhibits ten works. The nudes depicting women bathing are the talk of the exhibition. Many critics find the women ugly and the subject offensive. Some praise the honesty of the depictions and Degas's use of colour. Gauguin establishes a rapport with Degas.

1888 Writes sonnets that deal with subjects treated in his art: dance, horses, singers.

1892 An exhibition of Degas landscapes is held at Durand-Ruel, the first of only two solo exhibitions held during the artist's lifetime.

1900 Shows two paintings and five pastels an the century exhibition in Paris.

1901 Almost totally blind Degas can go no longer work except in large formats and with broad strokes of chalk; he sometimes retouches earlier work.

1905, February
Thirty-five works by Degas are shown at the Grafton Galleries in London, along with works by Impressionists painters and Cézanne.

1911 Second solo exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum.

1914 The Commondo collection, containing numerous works dy Degas, is given to the Louvre.

1917, September 27 Degas dies.


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