Edgar Degas Quotes

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 1834 – 1917

Born: 19 July 1834, Paris, France
Died: 27 September 1917, Paris, France

Born Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas, his banker father having changed the family name from “Degas” to “de Gas” to suggest an aristocratic lineage, a pretense that Edgar did not maintain. He attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand from 1845 to 1853, then signed up to start copying art at the Louvre. His father insisted on law school but he didn’t take those studies seriously. Two years later he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and continued to study by copying masters. Some sources suggest he copied over seven hundred works of the Italian Renaissance and French Classical periods. He is best known as one of the Impressionists, having been part of their first exhibition, but disliked the appellation and painted in other styles as well as sculpting. In 1870 he joined the National Guard and mounted the parapets with a rifle, but during training it was learned that his eyes were beginning to fail and he was nearly blind during his last years. The acid-tongued artist devoted most of his time to the life of Paris; theaters, dance halls, circuses, racetracks, and most of all, the ballet. He created about 1500 paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculptures of dancers.

Edgar Degas quotes:

‘Art’ is the same word as ‘artifice,’ that is to say, something deceitful. It must succeed in giving the impression of nature by false means.
    Edgar Degas

A man is an artist only at certain moments, by an effort of will. Objects have the same appearance for everybody.
    Edgar Degas

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

A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.
    Edgar Degas

A picture is a thing which requires as much knavery, as much malice, and as much vice as the perpetration of a crime. Make it untrue and add an accent of truth.
    Edgar Degas

A picture is an artificial work, outside nature. It calls for as much cunning as the commission of a crime.
    Edgar Degas

A picture is first of all a product of the imagination of the artist; it must never be a copy.
    Edgar Degas

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
    Edgar Degas

Art is really a battle.
    Edgar Degas

Art is vice. You don’t marry it legitimately, you rape it.
    Edgar Degas

Be sure to give the same expression to a person’s face that you give to his body.
    Edgar Degas

Boredom soon overcomes me when I am contemplating nature.
    Edgar Degas – Notebook entry (1858)

But it’s true, isn’t it Pauline, that people imagine that the artists and their models spend their time getting up to all sorts of obscenities? As far as work goes, well, they paint or sculpt when they are tired of enjoying themselves.
    Edgar Degas

Conversation in real life is full of half-finished sentences and overlapping talk. Why shouldn’t painting be too?
    Edgar Degas

Do portraits of people in familiar and typical attitudes, above all give to their face the same choice of expression that one gives to their body.
    Edgar Degas

Drawing is not the same as form; it is a way of seeing form.
    Edgar Degas

Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does his painting, his true personality.
    Edgar Degas

Drawing is your understanding of form.
    Edgar Degas

Even in front of nature one must compose.
    Edgar Degas

Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty.
    Edgar Degas

Hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience. But my women are simple, honest creatures who are concerned with nothing beyond their physical occupations … it is as if you were looking through a keyhole.
    Edgar Degas

I always urged my contemporaries to look for interest and inspiration to the development and study of drawing, but they would not listen. They thought the road to salvation lay by the way of colour.
    Edgar Degas

I feel as a horse must feel when the beautiful cup is given to the jockey.
    Edgar Degas

I felt so insufficiently equipped, so unprepared, so weak, and at the same time it seemed to me that my reflections on art were correct. I quarreled with all the world and with myself.
    Edgar Degas

I frequently lock myself in my studio. I do not often see the people I love, and in the end I shall suffer for it… painting is one’s private life.
    Edgar Degas

I have been, or seemed, hard with everyone because I was carried away by a sort of brutality born of my distrust in myself and my ill-humor. I have felt so badly equipped, so soft, in spite of the fact that my attitude towards art seemed to me so just. I was disgusted with everyone, and especially myself.
    Edgar Degas

I should like to be famous and unknown.
    Edgar Degas

I’m glad to say I haven’t found my style yet. I’d be bored to death.
    Edgar Degas

I, marry? Oh, I could never bring myself to do it. I would have been in mortal misery all my life for fear my wife might say, “That’s a pretty little thing,” after I had finished a picture.
    Edgar Degas

If I could have had my own way, I would have confined myself to black and white.
    Edgar Degas

If I were the government I would have a special brigade of gendarmes to keep an eye on artists who paint landscapes from nature. Oh, I don’t mean to kill anyone; just a little dose of bird-shot now and then as a warning.
    Edgar Degas

If painting weren’t so difficult, it wouldn’t be fun.
    Edgar Degas

In painting you must give the idea of the true by means of the false.
    Edgar Degas

It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one now only sees in one’s memory. That is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.
    Edgar Degas

It is essential to do the same subject over again, ten times, a hundred times. Nothing in art must seen to be chance, not even movement.
    Edgar Degas

It seems to me that today if the artist wishes to be serious … he must once more sink himself in solitude.
    Edgar Degas

Make a drawing, begin it again, trace it; begin it again and trace it again.
    Edgar Degas

Make people’s portraits in familiar and typical attitudes.
    Edgar Degas

Make portraits of people in typical, familiar poses, being sure above all to give their faces the same kind of expression as their bodies.
    Edgar Degas

Muses work all day long and then at night get together and dance.
    Edgar Degas

No art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament … I know nothing.
    Edgar Degas

One reproduces only that which is striking; that is to say, the necessary. Thus, one’s recollections and inventions are liberated from the tyranny which nature exerts.
    Edgar Degas

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

Painting is not very difficult when you don’t know how; but when you know, oh! then, it’s another matter.
    Edgar Degas

People call me the painter of dancers, but I really wish to capture movement itself.
    Edgar Degas

The air we see in the paintings of the old masters is never the air we breathe.
    Edgar Degas

The artist does not draw what he sees, but what he must make others see.
    Edgar Degas

The museums are here to teach the history of art and something more as well, for, if they stimulate in the weak a desire to imitate, they furnish the strong with the means of their emancipation.
    Edgar Degas

The secret is to follow the advice the masters give you in their works while doing something different from them.
    Edgar Degas

There is a kind of success that is indistinguishable from panic.
    Edgar Degas

There is love, and there is work; and we have only one heart.
    Edgar Degas

There is too much talk and gossip; pictures are apparently made, like stock-market prices, by competition of people eager for profits…. All this traffic sharpens our intelligence and falsifies our judgment.
    Edgar Degas

They call me the painter of dancers. They don’t understand that the dancer has been for me a pretext for painting pretty fabrics and for rendering movement.
    Edgar Degas

Truth is never ugly when one can find in it what one needs.
    Edgar Degas

What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.
    Edgar Degas

What a horrible thing yellow is.
    Edgar Degas

What a pity we allowed ourselves to be called Impressionists.
    Edgar Degas

What use is my mind? Granted that it enables me to hail a bus and to pay my fare. But once I am inside my studio, what use is my mind? I have my model, my pencil, my paints. My mind doesn’t interest me.
    Edgar Degas

Women can never forgive me; they hate me, they feel that I am disarming them. I show them without their coquetry.
    Edgar Degas

Work a great deal at evening effects, lamplight, candlelight, etc. The intriguing thing is not to show the source of the light but the effect of the lighting.
    Edgar Degas

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

Your pictures would have been finished a long time ago if I were not forced every day to do something to earn money.
    Edgar Degas – Letter to Jean-Baptiste Faure (14 March 1877)

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