Happy Birthday Edgar Degas!! The painter was born in Paris in 1834. His father was a French banker and his mother an American from New Orleans. He received permission to copy Old Master’s paintings in the Louvre at age 18, a practice many 19th century beginning painters employed. Degas was a member of the original seven artists who introduced the world to Impressionism. Thought to be a loner, Degas resented anyone and anything that robbed him of time for his art. He was closest to Impressionist, Mary Cassatt, who was considered one of his disciples. Degas did not adhere to all the practices of his peers, for instance he rarely painted outdoors and was not married or nearly as social as perhaps Monet or Renoir. Degas painted his beloved horse races, café scenes and ballet dancers. His worst fear was to lose his eyesight, and this unfortunately came true at the close of his life. He switched from oils to pastels, partially because of his bad right eye and deteriorating left one. He painted dancers to capture movement as well as to explore spatial composition. He had no qualms about cutting off parts of the figures as apparent in the pastel below, in the interest of composition. The dark dress of the assistant, behind, contrasts and draws the eye to the primary dancer in the center.