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Edgar Degas: the painter who tells the story of modern Parisian life

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Born in 1934 in Paris, Edgar Degas is one of the Impressionists of that time as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, etc. Considering the initial hostility towards the Impressionists, these artists join their forces and form a group to be able to show their “en plein air” works, and Degas is one of the pioneers of this company.

Female nudes, dancers and horses are the main subjects of his greatest works, in which the artist recounts his passions and modern Parisian life. A lover of the good life, the artist loves spending time at the hippodrome, attending meetings held in Parisian cafes, going to the theatre, etc.

The invention of photography has the greatest influence on the artist's work. For Edgar Degas photography is very useful for the study of movement and this technological innovation drives him to want to fix the expression of the motion of bodies in an instant. This is followed by a period in which the artist studies, creates portraits and various historical compositions, widens his horizons and begins to portray women who also carry out simple daily activities.

One of his greatest passions is opera, in fact he is a regular visitor to the Paris Opera House, where he spends a lot of time even behind the scenes. Here he discovers new subjects that he soon portrays with his new technique inspired by the functioning of the camera. An example of this style is the “Étoile”, painting where the dancer is represented in balance, a position that conveys the spontaneity of movements and the snapshot of a moment that is reproduced on canvas. In other paintings, too, the dancers are the main subjects and often this pictorial technique is clearly visible.

Horses are another passion of Edgar Degas. He considers them fascinating and begins to paint them, creating several works dedicated to these wonderful animals. Together with his friend Manet (who, like Edgar, belongs to the French high society), he attends the racetracks and is inspired by the scenes he sees to create unique paintings.

Finally, there are nudes among his favourite subjects, women who are represented in elegant positions, while one of the most enigmatic works ever signed by Edgar Degas is "The Rape", also defined as "the most theatrical of the compositions of modern life". In this painting there is an intriguing scene depicting a half-naked woman in a bedroom and a man on the door. Although there are several versions of the meaning of this work, it remains a mystery what the painter really wants to represent, and no version is universally accepted.

Perfect lights, imaginative representations that seem real, scenes from everyday life of the time in the French capital and the painter's passions are all excellently represented in the works of Edgar Degas. Particular attention should be paid to the play of light and shadow that the painter skilfully uses in all his works and that perfectly represent the Impressionist movement that marks the period in which this extraordinary artist works.

Article by: Aurora Caraman.

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