Edgar Degas began his obsession with the ballet at a young age; growing up in Paris and Italy he was always around the ballet culture. He created hundreds of paintings of the girls in the classes, where he captured the harsh realities of the ballet dancers’ lives. He became fascinated by the pain ballet dancer can inflict on their petite bodies. He focused on the beauty and brutality of dance and then began studying the girls of corps de ballet; these girls were known as “the little rats” they were young petite skinny girls who lived in terror and often suffered in silence, experiencing medical neglect and persistent pain. The ballet was a hard career to pursue and they often started at ages as young as 3.
Degas was born in 1834, into the wealth and glamour of Paris and Italy; he was said to possess old notions of honour. This was highlighted in his work and gave him his place in history that he holds today. Often Degas was to be found in the Rue Le Peleteir until it burned down in 1873; then in 1875 it was rebuilt, as the Charles Garnier replacement and went on to perform corps de ballet.
The romantic ballet had long been over before Degas developed a passion for it. The French ballet could not be considered an art form. This worked to his advantage as there was not any particularly great dancers until the opening of Le Belle Otero. Degas took great pride in portraying the dancers in choreographic patterns and often caught them in the most un ladylike manners cracking their joints and slumped against benches. He did associate female dancers with animals such as race horses. He painted the muscle and body forms so lovingly, yet filled with attitude and poise, he cut through the layer of false beauty right down to the inner core of the dancer exposing the real beauty and ugliness and anguish.
later on in his life in his mid 40s he lost his sight and went on to become fully blind. He went to work in wax in a bid to carry on doing what he loved and created many wax works of dancers.