BIOGRAPHY OF DEGAS
1834* 19th July. Edgar Degas born 8 Rue Saint-Georges, Paris, the eldest of five children. His father Pierre-Auguste-Hyacinthe de Gas managed a branch of the family bank owned by Edgar’s grandfather in Naples, where the latter had fled from the Revolution. Edgar’s mother was of Creole origin from New Orleans.
1845 * Entered the Lycee Louis le Grand, where he met two lifelong friends, Henri Rouart and Paul de Valpincon.
1847 * Death of his mother.
1853 * Having passed his baccalaureat with success, he enrolled in the law school, but spent much time drawing and frequenting the studio of Barrias, a mediocre painter. He also enrolled in the print-room of the Bibliotheque Nationale, where he made copies of works by Mantegna3 Diirer, Raphael, etc. His family had now moved to the Rue Mondivi.
1854 * First trip to Naples. In Paris, frequented the studio of Lamothe, a disciple of Ingres, who taught him drawing.
1855 * Lamothe introduced him to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he met Leon Bonnat,
Fantin-Latour, Elie Delaunay and the engraver Tourny.
This was also probably the time when he met Ingres. Visit to Italy and the South of France.
1856 * Another visit to Italy where he made an etching of Tourny. In Paris influenced by the painter and collector Soutzo, a friend of his family.
1857 * Spent much of the year in Italy (Rome) where he frequented the circle, centring round the Villa Medicis, which included Gustave Moreau, Bizet, Bonnat and Tourny. Also visited Naples, where he painted his grandfather, and Florence, where he made copies of old masters, e.g. Masaccio.
1858 * Expedition from Rome to Florence in a voitttrin. In August and the autumn, he stayed with the Belleli family in Florence and made sketches for the family portrait.
1859 * Returned to Paris in April and worked in studio, found by his family, in the Rue Madame. Made studies for the Belleli portrait and history pictures.
1860—2 * Discovered Japanese art. Visit to Valpincons at Menil-Hubert in Normandy and first
studies of horses in movement. Probably met Manet.
1865 * Showed Scene of war in the Middle Ages at the Salon and was congratulated by Puvis de Chavannes. For next five years sent works to Salon, but they were often refused. Began to go to the Cafe Guerbois near the Place Clichy, the rendezvous of Manet, Zola, Renoir, Monet and the critic Duranty, who became Degas’ friend and admirer.
1866* Gave up history pictures. Exhibited The wounded jockey at Salon.
1868 * Exhibited at Salon Mile Fiocre in the ballet ‘La source’, the first sign of his growing interest in theatre and ballet.
1869—70 * Portraits, paintings of musicians, and horses and jockeys. Visited Boulogne and Saint Valery-en-Caux with Manet. Executed small landscapes from memory.
1870 * The last time he exhibited at Salon. During the Franco-Prusian War, served in an artillery unit of the Garde Nationale. His eyesight was affected by the cold.
1871 * During the Commune, stayed at Menil-Hubert with Valpin9ons; painted their children.
1872 * Began visiting the opera house of the Rue le Peletier. In October he accompanied his brother Rene back to New Orleans, where both his brothers were cotton merchants. He stayed there until the following April and did many portraits of the family. He also made the studies for his famous Cotton market picture, now at Pau.
1873 * On his return to Paris, Degas lived at 77 Rue Blanche. Went often to the opera, but in the autumn the opera house was destroyed by fire. The friends who had met at the Cafe Gnerbois now went to the Nouvelle-Athenes, where they were joined by Forain, George Moore and Desboutin. Began to paint naturalistic genre pictures, such as Pedicure and Pouting. In December, went to Turin where his father had fallen seriously ill.
1874 * In February his father died at Naples. The bank which he had controlled was found to be in a difficult situation financially. Degas took a prominent part in organising the first exhibition of the Impressionists called Premiere exposition de la Societe Anony-me des artistes peintres, sculpteurs., graveurs, which opened on April 15th at the photographer Nadar’s former studio. Edmond de Goncourt visited Degas’ studio and commented in his journal.
1875 * Had already made a considerable collection of old masters and was now forced to sell part of it, especially pastels by La Tour, to help his brother René.
1876 * Second Impressionist exhibition at Durand-RueTs gallery. Degas showed twenty-four works. Mainly venomous reviews, except that by Duranty who wrote a brochure on the new group.
1877 * Moved to 4 Rue Frochot. Third Impressionist exhibition. Showed twenty-four works.
1878 * The cotton market, New Orleans, bought by the Pau Museum, was Degas’ first work to be shown in a museum.
1879 * Fourth Impressionist exhibition. Degas persuaded his friends to call themselves instead the ‘Independents’. Besides oil paintings and pastels, of which he was doing an increasing number. Degas exhibited decorated fans.
1880 * Fifth Impressionist exhibition which was, for the first time, reviewed by the Gazette
des Beaux-Arts. Visit to Spain. Did etchings with Mary Cassatt and Pissarro.
1881 * Sixth Impressionist exhibition. Showed his first piece of sculpture, Ballet dancer dressed. Major Muyfaridge’s photographs published in Le Globe showed Degas the real movements of galloping horses.
1882 * In July;, went to Etretat with Halevy and in September to Switzerland. He did not participate in the seventh Impressionist exhibition. About this time began his first series of Milliners and Laundresses,
1883 * Continued to see his Impressionist friends, who now met at the Cafe” de la Rochefoucauld. Durand-Ruel organised an Impressionist exhibition in London. Manet died.
1884 * Holiday trip in August to Normandy, to his friends the Valpincons. Made a bust of Hortense Valpincon, which was accidentally destroyed. Met Gauguin.
1885 * Eyesight worse, but still dined out often. Impressionist exhibition in Brussels. In August, visited Le Havre and Mont Saint Michel.
1886 * In January visit to Naples, on family business. Installed in new apartment, 21 Rue Pigalle. The eighth and last Impressionist exhibition was held; Degas showed ‘Series of women bathing, washing, drying, combing their hair’. Gave Durand-Ruel the exclusive rights to his works; the latter arranged an exhibition in New York of the Impressionist painters.
1887 * Went to Spain and then Morocco.
1890 * Visited his brother Achille in Geneva, and Burgundy with Bartholome the sculptor. Took great interest in collecting pictures.
1892 * Eyesight weakening. Practically abandoned oil painting- August at Menil-Hubert with the Valpincons where he did two studies of the billiard-room.
1893 * First one-man show at Durand-Ruel’sj exhibited landscapes. On the death of Caille-
botte, Degas’ pictures were the only ones all accepted in the Caillebotte legacy to the Luxembourg, whereas pictures of Renoir, Manet and Cezanne were refused. Trip to Interlaken and visit to Valernes at Carpentras.
1895—8 * Numerous Women bathing and Dancers.
1896 * In spite of bad health, went to the funeral of Valernes at Carpentras.
1897 * Went for a cure at the Mont-Dore, and with Bartholome paid a visit to the Ingres Museum at Montaubon.
1898 * Stayed at Saint Valery-sur-Somme where he met his brother Rene, from whom he had been estranged for many years. Photographed landscapes and then drew or painted them.
1900 * Contributed two paintings and five pastels to the Centennial Exhibition.
1904—6 * Could now work only on large compositions or sculptures. Sometimes painted on one
of his old canvases. Lived a very secluded life.
1907 * Visited the Vosges mountains for his health.
1909 * Could paint very little and was apparently indifferent to his growing fame.
1912 * Much saddened by the death of Henri Rouart, whose collection of pictures by Degas
fetched large prices. Forced to leave his home in the Rue Victor Masse, where he had lived for twenty years. Suzanne Valadon, who had become a close friend, found him a new studio and apartment at 6 Boulevard de CHchy, but he was never reconciled to the move.
1914 * The Camondo collection, including magnificent works by Degas, entered the Louvre.
This marked the complete victory of the Impressionists.
1917 * Died on September 27th and was buried in the family vault in Montrnartre cemetery.
Source : Pool, Phoebe: Degas. London, Spring Books, 1963.