Edgar Degas was born in Paris into a family of small-time international capitalists and, despite having it made from the word 'Allez!', was a cold fish who could turn a washerwoman into a wobbling lump of incoherent jelly with a vicious stab of his razor-edged wit or a magnificent work of art with a deft twirl of his nombre cinq hog's hair filbert. However he might have said he was just shy and sensitive.
After studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Edgar went off to Italy, studied some more, returned to Paris, painted 'rellies', chums and history, then hung out at the Cafe Guerbois with Edouard Manet and his Montmartre Mafia. However, he didn't quite look at the world in that squinty way they all favoured, much preferring the 'eyes wide open approach' that facilitated the gorgeous images that art maniacs now know and love.
Talking of love, even though Edgar spent his career eyeballing laundresses, ballerinas, milliners and beautifully-mounted horsemen, he never married or even whipped off his jockeys on a regular basis (as far as we know) and once said he preferred the idea of looking at models 'through a keyhole'. Sadly for him dirty.iMac.chap.com was a long time coming so he had to be content with the odd bit of photography and riding the omnibus, which he apparently loved because he could pig out on all those fascinating faces that inspired and informed his work so brilliantly.
In the 1870s he began to paint ballerinas by the stage full but, after finding that having whole herds of them charging about his studio caused chaos with the turpentine jars, he settled for the solitary model approach then let his imagination do the rest (in the nicest way imaginable). He died in Paris aged 83.
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