Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917) was one of the founders of the Impressionist group. He is best known for capturing fleeting moments in a flow of modern life, favoring scenes in theaters and cafés to plein air landscape painting. The Academic training he received as a young man, with its emphasis on line and its insistence on the importance of draftsmanship, greatly reflected in the contours of his figures, distinguishes his art from that of the rest of the Impressionists.
Around 1870s Degas became focused on ballet dancers, laundresses, milliners, race horses, and subjects of Parisian low life, which he captured in oils, engraving, monotype, and photography. But it was the immediacy of pastels that he preferred during this period. His interest in ballet dancers lead to the productions of approximately 1,500 works on the subject. These dynamic studies address the movement of the human body and the physicality of the discipline, often depicted in unexpected compositions and from asymmetrical vantage points.
Toward the end of his life Degas focused almost exclusively on dancers and nudes, increasingly turning to sculpture as his eyesight weakened.