Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born into a wealthy family and his father had hoped that he would become a lawyer. However, Degas was more interested in art, which he pursued from an early age, converting a room in the family home into a studio.

In 1853, he registered as a copyist at the Louvre, following in the footsteps of major academic artists and learning from ancient sculpture and the great Renaissance masters.

In 1855, Degas met Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whose classical painting style he admired, and later that year he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts. Degas seemed set for a conventional career as a classicising academic artist.

However by the 1870s he had departed from epic subject matter in favour of scenes representing contemporary life in Paris.

He especially favoured washerwomen and dancers. He never completely rejected academic techniques, however, and the result is a painter who is known as an Impressionist but who continued to work in his studio and never in the outdoors.