Edgar Degas is widely considered the master of drawing the human figure in motion. His extraordinary draftsmanship. which stressed balance and clarity of outline. became a hallmark of his art work. He worked in many media. preferring pastel to all others. and is best known for his intimate. immediate drawings of ballerinas and race horses.
The son of a wealthy Parisian banking family. Degas originally planned to study law but opted to follow his early idol, the painter Jean Auguste Ingres. whose example pointed him in the direction of classical draftsmanship. After beginning his artistic studies with Louis Lamothes. a pupil of Ingres, he started classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but left in 1854 and went to Italy. He stayed there for five years, studying Italian art, especially Renaissance works.
Returning to Paris. Degas came to know Manet. and in the late 1860s he turned to contemporary themes where his subjects frequently conveyed an element of psychological tension. He was fascinated with the movement of forms through space and often sketched dancers from the theater wings. capturing his subjects with an unrivaled immediacy