“People call me the painter of dancing girls. It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes.
”— Edgar Degas
On this 179th birthday of the unrivaled painter of dancers, take a trip to the Palais Garnier—the opulent Parisian opera house were Edgar Degas, sketch pad in tow, left no wing, classroom, or backstage space untouched. As a permanent fixture in the 19th-century theater scene, Degas never missed a moment: “He comes here in the morning,” a backstage friend once recalled. “He watches all the exercises in which the movements are analyzed, and ... nothing in the most complicated steps escapes his gaze.”