Edgar Degas - Biography

1895 Edgar Degas Self-portrait
1895 Edgar Degas Self-portrait

From Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City:
Degas was born in 1834, the scion of a wealthy banking family, and was educated in the classics, including Latin, Greek, and ancient history, at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. His father recognized his son’s artistic gifts early, and encouraged his efforts at drawing by taking him frequently to Paris museums. Degas began by copying Italian Renaissance paintings at the Louvre, and trained in the studio of Louis Lamothe, who taught in the traditional Academic style, with its emphasis on line and its insistence on the crucial importance of draftsmanship. Degas was also strongly influenced by the paintings and frescoes he saw during several long trips to Italy in the late 1850s; he made many sketches and drawings of them in his notebooks.
Evidence of Degas’s classical education can be seen in his relatively static, frieze-like early painting, Young Spartans Exercising (ca. 1860; National Gallery, London), done while he was still in his twenties. Yet despite the title, and the suggestion of classical drapery on some of the figures in the background, there is little that places the subject of this painting in ancient Greece. Indeed, it has been noted that the young girls have the snub noses and immature bodies of "Montmartre types," the forerunners of the dancers Degas painted so often throughout his career. After 1865, when the Salon accepted his history painting The Misfortunes of the City of Orléans (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), Degas did not paint Academic subjects again, focusing his attention on scenes of modern life. He began to paint scenes of such urban leisure activities as horse racing and, after about 1870, of café-concert singers and ballet dancers.

You can see more complete information in the source:
Ruth Schenkel
Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art