Edgar Degas quotes

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Edgar Degas

Birthdate: 19. July 1834
Date of death: 27. September 1917

Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, preferring to be called a realist. He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his rendition of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.

At the beginning of his career, Degas wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

„Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.“

—  Edgar Degas

Quoted in Artists on Art: From the XIV to the XX Century, ed. Robert Goldwater (Pantheon, 1945)
quotes, undated

„I should like to be famous and unknown.“

—  Edgar Degas

Je voudrais être illustre et inconnu.
Degas said this to Henri Rouart, as cited by Antoine Terrasse, in Degas (Chartwell Books, 1982)
quotes, undated

„Apart from my heart, I feel everything grows old in me. Even my heart has something artificial. It has been sewn by the dancers in a soft, pink satin purse like their shoes.“

—  Edgar Degas

Quote in Degas' letter to the sculptor Paul-Albert Bartolomé, January 1886; as cited in 'Performing Fine Arts: Dance as a Source of Inspiration in Impressionism, by Johannis Tsoumas http://rupkatha.com/dance-in-impressionism/
1876 - 1895

„He [ Corot ] is always the strongest, he has foreseen everything.“

—  Edgar Degas

Degas in 1883, as quoted by Colin B. Bailey, in The Annenberg Collection: Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-impressionism, publish. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 2
Degas made this remark about Corot to Pissarro at the preview exhibition of the 'Jules Paton sale' in Paris, 24 April 1883 and overheard by Corot's biographer Alfred Robaut https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Robaut.
1876 - 1895

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„A painting is above all a product of the artist's imagination, it must never be a copy. If, at a later stage, he wants to add two or three touches from nature, of course it doesn't spoil anything.“

—  Edgar Degas

Une peinture, c'est d'abord un produit de l'imagination de l'artiste, ce ne doit jamais être une copie. Si, ensuite, on peut y ajouter deux ou trois accents de nature, evidemment ca ne fait pas de mal.
Quoted by Maurice Sérullaz, L'univers de Degas (H. Scrépel, 1979), p. 13
quotes, undated

„I really have some luggage in my head. If only there were insurance companies for that as there are for so many things here, there's a bale I should insure at once.“

—  Edgar Degas

J'ai vraiment, un vrai bagage dans la tête. S'il y avait pour cela, comme il y a partout ici, des compagnies d'assurance, voilà un ballot je ferais assurer de suite.
Quote from a letter to James Tissot, (New Orleans, 1873), as cited in Marilyn Brown, Degas and the Business of Art: A Cotton Office in New Orleans (Penn State Press, 1994)
1855 - 1875

„Women can never forgive me; they hate me, they feel I am disarming them. I show them without their coquetry.“

—  Edgar Degas

Quoted by Julian Barnes, 'The Artist As Voyeur' (1996), from The Grove Book of Art Writing, ed. Martin Gayford and Karen Wright (Grove Press, 2000)
quotes, undated

„You have to have a high conception, not of what you are doing, but of what you may do one day: without that, there's no point in working.“

—  Edgar Degas

Il faut avoir une haute idée, non pas de ce qu'on fait, mais de ce qu'on pourra faire un jour; sans quoi ce n'est pas la peine de travailler.
"Mad About Drawing" (p. 64)
posthumous quotes

„Draw all kind of everyday object placed, in such a way that they have in them the life of the man or woman – corsets that have just been removed, for example, and which retain the form of the body. Do a series in aquatint on mourning, different blacks – black veils of deep mourning floating on the face – black gloves – mourning carriages, undertaker’s vehicles – carriages like Venetian gondolas. On smoke – smoker’s smoke, pipes, cigarettes, cigars – smoke from locomotives, from tall factory chimneys, from steam boats, etc. On evening – infinite variety of subjects in cafes, different tones of glass robes reflected in the mirrors. On bakery, bread. Series of baker's boys, seen in the cellar itself or through the basement windows from the street – backs the colour of the pink flour – beautiful curves of dough – still-life's of different breads, large, oval, long, round, etc. Studies in color of the yellows, pinks, grays, whites of bread…… Neither monuments nor houses have ever been done from below, close up as they appear when you walk down the street. [a working note in which Degas planned series of views of modern Paris, the same time when he sketched the backstreet brothels, making graphic unflinching and even his realistic 'pornographic' sketches he called his 'glimpses through the keyhole', in which he also experimented with perspectives]“

—  Edgar Degas

Quote from Degas' Notebooks; Clarendon Press, Oxford 1976, nos 30 & 34 circa 1877; as quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, Harpen Collins Publishers, New York 2006, p. 182
quotes, undated

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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