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Edgar Degas is always thought of as an Impressionist. He was part of the first group of Paris artists to show together in the 1870s. He used many of their new ways of doing things. Not only that, but he was interested in how hard it was to capture the effects of light, and he was drawn to scenes of urban leisure. But Degas's education and personal preference for realism set him apart from his peers, and he refused to be called an impressionist. Instead, he called himself an "Independent." Because of the money he received, he was able to go his own way. Later, he was able to leave the Paris art scene and sell pictures on his own terms. He was interested in the shape of the human body, and in his many pictures of dancers, singers, and laundresses, he tried to show the body in odd ways. Critics of the Impressionists mostly criticized their new ways of painting, but Degas's paintings of poor people got him the most criticism.
Degas's education helped shape his long-lasting interest in the human figure, but he treated it in new ways. He took pictures of weird poses from odd angles and with artificial light. He didn't like the academic idea that the subject should be mythical or historical. Instead, he looked for his figures in current places, like at the ballet.
Because of his education, Degas's art had a strong classical style, which was different from how the Impressionists worked. While he valued line as a way to show edges and give a picture a strong artistic structure, they liked color and focused more on surface texture. Also, he liked to work from sketches and memories in the usual academic way, while they liked to paint outside (en plein air).
Like many Impressionists, Degas was greatly inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, which showed new ways to put things together. The prints had bold, straight lines and a flat look that was very different from the standard Western picture, which showed the world from a different point of view.
There is a big difference between how Degas treated his female models and how he treated his man models. There is a lot of evidence that he didn't like women, and there is also a lot of evidence that he was so fascinated by the female form that he tried to show it in its purest form through hundreds of studies. No matter what the truth is, his studies and work helped the visual arts learn more about the figure and the picture.