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Edgar Degas – French Impressionist Painter and Sculptor

Edgar Degas French Impressionist Painter Art Lesson
Studying art in the classroom helps children express themselves, develop problem-solving abilities and build confidence. And by learning the techniques and styles of artists like Edgar Degas, children gain a greater understanding of art history and the creative process at the same time. Let’s take a closer look at Degas and his work.

Edgar Degas was a French painter and sculptor who lived from 1834 to 1917. In this video lesson, Barbara Mason takes a look at the life, work and artistic style of this Impressionist artist. Learn about his mix of older and newer art styles, the influence he incorporated from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and much more.

Edgar Degas – Early French Impressionist Curriculum

An Introduction to the Art of Edgar Degas Video

Watch as Barbara introduces the artwork and impact of Edgar Degas. Degas was a contemporary and supporter of Mary Cassatt whose work still inspires artists to this day.

Degas Two Ballerinas Outline
Degas Ballerina Outline WB

French Impressionist Art and Edgar Degas

Read the video transcription below as you watch Barbara describe the life and work of Edgar Degas. Get a closer look at the Impressionist art and sculpture created by this celebrated French artist.

Hi, and welcome back to Golden Road Arts. I’m Barbara Mason and today we’re going to talk about a really famous artist who influenced a lot of artists behind him. His name was Edgar Degas, and he was born in Paris, France in 1834. Now 1834 is almost 200 years ago. Really, really long time ago. His name was Edgar Degas and when he was a young man, he was a wonderful draftsman. That means that he could draw things – he just had a very good skill at being able to look at something and then draw it on paper.

So, he was very interested in being an artist, but of course his father wanted him to go into business because sometimes being an artist can be an iffy thing far as making a living, but he just was so intent on being an artist and it was such a passion that finally his father relented. And he went to art school, and the person that taught him wasn’t a great artist, but he was a great teacher, and I think that’s often the case. That sometimes somebody can teach you something, and they aren’t necessarily perfect at it themselves, but this man who taught him was really, really a good teacher. And he so he refined his skills, and he got to be an even better draftsman. He could really draw well.

And then he started to paint, and he wanted to paint like the masters. And so even though he was going to school to learn how people painted during his time – when he was a young man – he went to the Louvre, which is a big famous museum in Paris, and he studied all the paintings that were there and so he spent a lot of time looking at paintings that were from Italy and from Spain. And so, all the great masters that had come before him maybe even 100 or 200 years ago. He really studied the way that they painted, and he wanted to be a person who could paint history. That means he wanted to paint a situation where he would put lots of people together in a painting and it would be some monumental painting that would depict a certain time in history. Only he never was really able to do that. He tried and it just didn’t. It just didn’t work out for him. He would make these paintings and somehow even though he had painted all these individual people, they just didn’t look like it was it was together and so finally he sort of gave up on doing historical paintings and he started painting things that were around him. And he was very, very good at it and he was very good at painting and drawing movement. So if you flick your hand like this or if you bent your head a certain way, Degas could capture that very, very easily in his paintings and on paper. He was just so good at it. And so, a lot of his paintings show people just in the things that they were doing every day and he was very interested in dancers. He had a lot of paintings of ballet dancers, and I have a couple here that I’m going to show you.

These are paintings and these are black and white drawings of his paintings. This is an actual painting. This one is done in pastels and we’re going to put these two paintings on our site, so you’ll be able to see them in color. Now I printed them in black and white off of my printer so that I could draw around them and I could make a copy. I traced it on a piece of trade tracing paper, and then I put it in my computer, and I was able to print it off. So, you see, here’s my drawing. I mean my painting that I had taken from Degas, and then I did it here, and I’ve done these in several different kinds of medium, so you can see what they look like.

The first one I did was this drawing right here and the first one I did was in markers. Now markers have really brilliant colors, but you see, it’s kind of hard to really capture all the subtleties of the painting. Because you don’t have very many colors for one thing and for another thing the colors are very intense, but they’re very separate. You can’t really move them together. Then the second one I did, I used crayons and you know we all have crayons. Crayons are kind of the favorite medium and so you can see with crayons. I was able to put more than one color around here and I was able to kind of blend them together a little bit. And so, the crayon drawing looks pretty good. I like the crayon drawing.

And then the next one I did with this, the same drawing and this is done in watercolor. So, you can see everything is kind of mushy looking and kind of faint and vague. And that’s what watercolors do. They’re very good at giving a mood watercolors are. And then the last one I did was pastel. And this is on very smooth paper, so with the pastels you can take and you can rub it like this with your finger. Comes up on your finger, but it also smooths it on the paper. So, this paper that I used here is very smooth paper. And I also did one with pastels and this is on paper that’s rough so you can see they look quite different. The rough paper I was able to smooth it around much more I was able to just rub it and really, really, really smooth it in. So, I’m going to do a little sample for you as I tell you a little more about Degas.

This is just paper from the computer. And this piece of paper here is a little heavier paper. So, I think I might use that one and I think I might do this in watercolor, and we’ll see how that works. I have different pastels here that I wanted to show you, so when you’re working with pastels, what happens is you can make little lines and I wanted to show you I have two pieces here that I wanted to show you pictures of work that Degas did. Degas had a little problem with his eyesight. As he got older, the bright lights really bothered him, and it was harder for him to see things. So, this is a beautiful painting of a woman that he did. This painting is not huge. It’s 10 inches by 8 inches. So that’s practically about the size it in this book. So, you can see what a beautiful painting it is. This is a really, really well-done painting of her. She looks – you feel like she’s almost alive like you could touch her skin, she looks so real. So, he was a very good painter.

And then back here I’m going to show you a pastel. Now why do you look at the difference between the painting and the pastel? Look at all these little lines and how different it looks. It looks it looks rough. And yet it has a lot of life to it and Degas’ vision started to go, he started to work on pastels because it was easier for him to get his face closer to the paper and this pastel is about twice as big as the painting. And he was able to get his face right down to the close to the paper, and he was able to really see what he was doing and so you can see when we do pastels, it’s a little bit like drawing with crayons, but not quite. And pastels come in different ways, so these are pastel pencils, and you can see they are very soft. So, if I took it and I did it on my hand a little bit, you can see how it comes off. Just like that. Now, you couldn’t do that with a crayon. Crayons wouldn’t come off like that. So, what I’m going to do, I think, I’m going to save that one for watercolor.

So, I’m going to do this so now what I want to do is I want to draw around her. So that it looks like – look how soft, that is, isn’t it nice? I want to draw around her so that it looks like she’s silhouetted with the background. So, the first thing I want to do is the background.

So, when you print these off and you try drawing these, I want you to think about the background and think about it’s almost as important as the image, because if you have a nice strong background, your image is going to stand out and is going to pop forward. And you know the image is the most important thing and you want to see this lovely dancer way more than you want to see the wall. But I’m drawing the wall first. So now you can see what’s happening here with these pastel pencils. How I’m able to do the background. Now if I take my finger and I rub it like this, look what happens. Look at that. The background suddenly getting a lot smoother, isn’t it? So, you can decide when you’re using pastels, you can decide how much you want to rub it, or how much you don’t want to rub it. If you wanted it to show if you wanted the lines to show, you could see I’ve got it on my finger, but I’m just going to wipe it off,

So, when you’re working with pastels, it’s very soft and it’s kind of in the air. And you don’t want to blow on it, because if you blow on it to get the little pieces off, you put some in the air, and then you’re breathing them in – anything that you breathe in is not good for your lungs. You can imagine that these little pieces of colored chalk in your lungs are not very healthy for you.

So now I’m going to take maybe this color and what I’m going to do on the other side is use this pastel that’s in a stick. This is a pastel that’s in a pencil, but it’s the same stuff. So, I should be able to do the background on this side of her. And because I can lay this on its side, but quite a big area, I can do it once. So, pastels are really fun to work with, but you do have the problem of having this stuff that’s blowing around and so you have to be careful. You don’t want to be having it in your lungs, so you don’t want to be blowing on it. It’s really easy to do a little spot and say, oh, I think I’ll just blow that off and get rid of it. But don’t do that, because if you do it, it’ll be in the air, and you’ll be breathing it. And we don’t want to be breathing it.

So now why do you think I did the one side? It’s dark blue, purple actually and the other side more red. Why do you think I did that? I did that because I’m thinking about the light. And I’m thinking this side is almost too light, so maybe I’m going to put some blue in it, make it a little darker. So, I hope that when you’re drawing your pictures of Degas, you will remember what a good draftsman he was. You know he was very taken with an artist named Ingres who was quite a bit older than he was, but he was a wonderful, wonderful painter and Ingres told him that if you really want to be an artist, you need to draw and you need to use lines. Lots and lots of lines and I think that’s what Degas did most of his life. I think he used lots of lines so look what happens when I rub this. Isn’t this interesting? Look at that, it’s just changing. It’s just changing and it’s getting softer.

So now I almost feel like this is too dark, but – and you could hardly do this with any other media –  with the pastels, you actually have white, and I could make this lighter. I thought it was too dark. OK, that was pretty dark. OK, so now I have my dancer. And I need to have her skin. This is kind of my lightest skin color, and so we will do her skin. You know skin comes in about 50 shades. You wouldn’t believe that, but one of the things that you can notice if you ever notice makeup in the stores. And you see all those shades of makeup. And you say, oh my gosh, look at that. There’re 50 shades. 50 different colors of skin. So, we’ve got our skin and again we can smooth her out. Smooth her out a little bit. And then I think with her dress – I think with her dress we’re going to make it yellow. So, my other dress I made her dress blue, but this one I’m going to do yellow.

So that’s a great thing about art. There’s no real way to do it wrong, and you can do this any color you want because it’s your work. You know, if you follow the directions on how to do things, you’ll get a result that is similar to the person who’s giving you the directions. And if you don’t follow the directions, you’ll get something else. That’s a great thing about your artwork. It’s your work so it can be any way you want it. OK, so now we have her yellow dress. And maybe we’ll use another yellow. This is two yellows here. How would that be? It doesn’t look much different, does it? Oh, it’s a little darker. OK, so we have a yellow dress. Now what I want you to notice is I want to take the white and I’m going to make little tiny lines. Can’t even see them. Well, it was a good idea that didn’t work. Choose another color so we can see it. Like see this color here. Would that be good? I think it would be a good color. We’re going to make some little, tiny lines. They’re going to kind of look like the lines that Degas used. He used lots of little, tiny lines. Lots of little, tiny lines to define the edges of his work. So, you can see that if you had trouble with your vision. That if you did lots of these little, tiny lines and you got your head down pretty close to your to your drawing, that you could see pretty well where things were light, and things were dark. And of course, Degas had his whole background of his life where he did wonderful drawings. So, because he has done so much of that, he didn’t have to remember how to draw, he just had to remember where the light and the dark was. So, see those little lines? Just kind of putting him on the edges where the dress folds.

So, thanks for coming to visit me at Golden Road Arts today, and we’ll see you next time. Again, this is Barbara Mason at Golden Road Arts.

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Golden Road Arts creates hands-on guides and art literacy tutorials designed to encourage creativity and inspire a lifelong love of art. Our library of videos covers a wide range of creative styles, techniques and art history information, all accessible from one location. Watch our free art lessons today.

Coloring page of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasColoring page of two ballerinas in the style of Edgar DegasWatercolor of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasPastel of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasPastel final of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasCrayon of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasMarker of single ballerina in the style of Edgar DegasWatercolor of two ballerinas in the style of Edgar DegasPastel of two ballerinas in the style of Edgar Degas

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