Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas (Degas) was born in 1834, in Paris, into a wealthy family. At 18 he starts to copy masterpieces at the Louvre. In 1855, after a year at the École des Beaux-Arts, he leaves for Italy. In opposition to Michelangelo’s neo-Platonic spirituality, Degas takes after Poussin and 17th century philosophy, and strives to understand the body mechanism. Back in Paris in 1859, Degas makes a series of family portraits and historical scenes (“Semiramis Building Babylon” and “Scene of War in the Middle Ages.”).
In the late 1860s he begins modeling in wax. In 1862 he meets Manet and later joins Sisley, Renoir and Monet. They form the Société Anonyme des Artistes, a group committed to putting on exhibitions outside the context of the Salon’s control. They hold their first exhibition on April 15, 1874. Degas displays portraits of women from different perspective angles. He participates in 8 Impressionist exhibitions. Unlike his fellow Impressionists who are fascinated primarily by the countryside, rural scenery and natural daylight, Degas is intrigued by the effect of indoor lighting, and many of his sketches depict urban modern life. His sculptures, like his photography, are an attempt to better understand movement, in particular how light and shade play and move on the human body. Degas dies in Paris in 1917.