|Self -Portrait in a Soft Hat, 1857 (23 years old)|
His father wanted him to study law, but after several months, he decided that law was not for him but art was, and began what would be called difficult training in classic art in Italy and then France where he studied at the Louvre. At first he painted and studied and copied the 15th and 16th century masters, but then evolved his style, a classic painter of modern life. Not only did he paint in various mediums, he sculpted. Renoir called Degas, "the world's greatest living sculptor," even though he only exhibited one sculpture during his lifetime. After his death, his sculptures were cast in bronze.
His long career, over 60 years, showed differences in style and approach, although, he always sketched his subjects first and then finished in his studio, sometimes painting his works over and over again until he was satisfied. He did not consider himself an impressionist although his work is classified as such, because he did not paint 'Plein Air" (outside) like his fellow impressionist artists. "No art was less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing."
In 1873, Degas learned that his brother Rene had incurred huge business debts. Degas sold his house and his extensive personal art collection of other artists, to pay off his brother's debts and save his family's reputation. For the first time in his life he had to depend on the sale of his paintings. His greatest artistic decade was in the 1870's, perhaps due to the pressure, but what a treasure for all of us to enjoy all these years later.
Becoming more and more isolated in his later years, due to loss of eyesight and his belief that artists should not have a personal life, he became more reclusive and died in 1917.
( Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York and Wikipedia)