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These Photographs Taken By Edgar Degas Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

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These Photographs Taken By Edgar Degas Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

Today is World Photography Day. On this day, on August 19th, 1839 the French government bought the patent for the daguerrotype and released it “free to the world”. On this special occasion we have prepared something special… Enjoy:)

Edgar Degas became passionate about photography in the autumn of 1895, when the artist was 61 years old and the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition was a decade behind him. Degas’ photographs are little known even among devotees of the artist’s paintings and pastels, and that’s a real shame. His photographic figure studies, portraits of friends and family, and very interesting (a bit hipster) self-portraits are truly hypnotizing. Most of those photographs were made in the evenings, during dinner parties lit with oil lamps. Until now, fewer than 50 of them survive.  Here are some of them:

Seated Nude

Edgar Degas, Seated Nude, 1895, J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas, Seated Nude, 1895, J. Paul Getty Museum


This photograph of a woman putting on stockings shares this specific theme so typical for Degas. The artist, a bachelor, showed a strong curiosity about the private, everyday rituals that women perform–bathing, dressing, and ironing. Yet he would have had few opportunities to candidly observe a woman in this position. Scholars are not certain whether Degas posed an artist’s model in his studio or actually took his camera to a brothel.

Louise Halévy Reclining

Edgar Degas, Louise Halévy Reclining, 1895, J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas, Louise Halévy Reclining, 1895, J. Paul Getty Museum

Louise Halévy, Edgar Degas’ friend since childhood, fell asleep reading. The gas lamp that lights up the whole scene is so intense that it appears in the picture as a dominating, unmodulated white flare, thus breaks the rules of the “good” photography.

Self Portrait Photograph

Edgar Degas, Self Portrait Photograph, 1895

Edgar Degas, Self Portrait Photograph, 1895


In the Self Portrait from 1895 Edgar Degas captures himself with his housekeeper Zoe Closier. It is so modern! (Look at his eyes!)

After the Bath, Woman Drying her Back

Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman Drying her Back 1896, J. Paul Getty Museum

Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman Drying her Back 1896, J. Paul Getty Museum

Like many artists, Edgar Degas made photographs as preparatory studies for his drawings and paintings. He was alsofamous for bullying his models and forcing them to hold complicated poses. This photograph may have been made in connection with a series of drawings with women dressing and bathing. Her pose is purely formal – she does not appear to be drying any part of her body.

Dancer Adjusting Her Shoulder Strap

Edgar Degas, Dancer Adjusting Her Shoulder Strap, c. 1895-96, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Edgar Degas, Dancer Adjusting Her Shoulder Strap, c. 1895-96, Bibliotheque Nationale de France


Here we have something that everyone was waiting for – the photo of a ballet dancer. The scene is bathed in half-light. The dresses of the girls seem to shine in semi-darkness. As the master intended, the light sources remain invisible: no doubt it is a combination of several lamps.

Portrait of Henry Lerolle with two of his daughters

Edgar Degas - Portrait of Henry Lerolle with two of his daughters

Edgar Degas , Portrait of Henry Lerolle with two of his daughters, Museé d’Orsay

The photograph was taken at the house of the painter Henri Lerolle, a great friend of Degas. As Daniel Halévy, son of Louise from one of the previous photos, who also gave Degas his first camera, said: “He went back and forth … running from one end of the room to the other with an expression of infinite happiness”.

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Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

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