Born Edgar Hilaire Germain de Gas in Paris, France, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, at first heavily influenced by Ingres. Degas' innovative composition, skillful drawing, and perceptive analysis of movement made him one of the masters of modern art in the late 19th century. He is especially known for his paintings of ballet dancers and other women, as well as of race horses. He is often considered an Impressionist, but his work sometimes goes more in classical and realist directions, other times to Romanticism.
Degas lived with relatives in New Orleans, Louisiana 1872-1873. One of the paintings he did there and then brought back to France, The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans got him favorable attention, and was his only work purchased by a museum (that of Pau) during his lifetime.
He died in Paris and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris, France.
Today, paintings by Degas can sell for more than US$16 million.