An artist who captured the grace and beauty of ballet dancers and race horses, Edgar Hilaire-Germain Degas (1834-1917) was born on this day in Paris. The son of a wealthy banker, he abandoned law for art.
"No art was ever less spontaneous than mine," he said. "What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament I know nothing."
The great master of motion celebrated the female body, its harmony of movement and passion of expression. "What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it's charming," he said.
Degas resisted the Impressionist practice of painting outdoors and working from subject. Inspired by advances in photography, he toiled often in the studio, painting from memory. He experimented with original composition and Japanese techniques. Movement fascinated him more than light. Nearly half of his 2,000 works celebrated dance.
"You must have a high concept not of what you are doing, but of what you may do someday. Without that there's no point to working," he said.
When his vision failed in the 1890s, Degas turned to sculpture and pastels. He mixed his memories with the grace of imagination, explaining: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things."
Mix life's pallet with the colors of imagination and memory.