Regarded as a founder of Impressionism, Edgar Degas is renowned for his prints, paintings, drawings and sculpture. Born in Paris to a moderately wealthy family, he began to paint early in his life, turning his room into painting studio in 1853. Degas both worked as a copyist at the Louvre and studied law at the University of Paris. By 1855, he had abandoned his legal studies, enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts, and begun his artistic career. In 1856, he moved to Italy and completed what is considered his first masterpiece, The Bellelli Family.
Following his return to Paris in 1859, Degas evolved from historical paintings to more contemporary subject matter, exhibiting regularly at the Salon from 1864 forward. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he served in the National Guard. Following the war, he visited family in New Orleans, Louisiana. He returned to Paris and crushing familial debt in 1873. Dependent on his art for income, Degas entered his most prolific period of his career in 1874. He exhibited in the Impressionist exhibitions, though disliked being referred to as an “Impressionist” and disliked many members of the group. As time passed, he alienated many of his friends, believing that a painter could have no personal life. He stopped producing work around 1912 and died in 1917.
Much of Degas’ work focuses on dancers, studying the nature of the human body and studying the subtleties of its movement. His works are deeply human, noted for their psychological intricacy. Degas was deeply inspired by Japanese prints, integrating the visual concepts found in ukiyo-e into his existing style. Utamaro’s bijin-ga, or "pictures of beautiful women," were particularly influential, instilling an intimacy of the female form.