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  • Edgar Degas
    Jul 19, 1834 - Sep 27, 1917
  • The Bellelli Family - Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers.
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The Bellelli Family
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  • Edgar Degas
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  • 1860
    Oil on canvas
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    Between the ages of 22 and 26, Edgar Degas completed his training in Italy, where part of his family lived. Here he painted his father's sister, Laure, with her husband, the baron Bellelli (1812-1864) and her two daughters, Giula and Giovanna.

    The baron was an Italian patriot, banned from Naples, who lived an exile in Florence. His wife is in mourning for her father, Hilaire, who died recently and whose portrait appears on the framed redline painting close to his daughter's face. In 1860, the two granddaughters, Giovanna and Giula, are 7 and 10. The mother is impressively dignified and affirms a slightly severe authority, contrasting with the relative aloofness of the father. This family portrait evokes those of Flemish painters, van Dyck in particular. Masterpiece of Degas's early years, this portrait evokes the family tensions isolating each member of the family. The imposing dimensions, the sober colours, the structured games of open perspectives (doors and mirrors), all converge in strengthening a c limate of oppression. All the more so as suggestions of escape appear, such as this curious little dog split by the frame. The almost playful position of the younger daughter alone, crossing her leg under her skirt, contrasts with the heavy atmosphere whereas her elder sister seems already prisoner of adult conventions.

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Other paintings by Edgar Degas:

The Green Dancer
The Green Dancer
The Star
The Star
Woman with a Towel
Woman with a Towel
The Tub
The Tub
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas As the son of a wealthy Parisian banking family, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas originally planned to study law before opting to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1855. His studies there strongly emphasized traditional drawing skills. Degas excelled and his extraordinary draftsmanship became a hallmark of his work. In 1856, Degas traveled extensively throughout Italy where he studied renaissance and classical masterpieces.

As a founding member of the Impressionists, Degas helped to organize the ground-breaking exhibition of 1874, exhibiting 10 of his own pieces in this inaugural show. While historically labeled an Impressionist, Degas preferred the term "Naturalist". He seldom painted en plein- air. Instead preferring to work from sketches and models. The artist once said: "My art has nothing spontaneous about it, it is all reflection." His studies frequently convey an element of psychological tension, offering the viewer intimate vignettes of life in late 19th century Paris. Fascinated with the movement of forms through space, Degas often sketched dancers from the wings of theaters, working in pastel and charcoal to capture his subjects with an unrivaled immediacy. Women dancing or merely engaged in the activities of daily life consistently his favored subject. Scholarship is currently divided as to whether Degas was a misogynist or an early feminist but the raging controversy has yet to dampen enthusiasm for the artist's work.

Degas liked photography so he painted similar to how a camera would capture a picture.