Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 4, Edgar Degas

Last week, my students and I jumped forward several hundred years to the period of the Impressionists and Edgar Degas.  As I explained in class, the reason I jumped forward is simply because I only have time to introduce them to eighteen new artists and so I simply chose the ones I wanted to  study based upon personal interest.  There are plenty of artists one could study during the time between Michelangelo’s death and Degas’s birth, but I chose to skip over them. When you are writing your own curriculum, you can do this sort of thing.

Timeline information is as follows:

Edgar Degas



Our fast facts for Degas are:

  1. He was a perfectionist.

2. Was considered to be a founder of impressionism.

3. His favorite subject was ballerinas.

I started out reading aloud some biographical information about our artist which I found on this link.  Once I finished reading the information, each student was given a color sheet of The Dance Class and were encouraged to color the picture as I read aloud from Chasing Degas, a beautiful picture book told from the point of view of one of the dancers in this famous painting.  Not only does this book introduce the children to Edgar Degas and his ballet painting but it also allows the reader to catch glimpses of several of his contemporaries.  After reading this book, students should have a firm grasp on the Impressionists and their place in time (the 1800s)  and location (Paris, France).

Children also received a map of France for his or her notebook.

After we read the picture book, I told the children about the 14 Year Old Dancer, the only sculpture that Degas ever displayed during his career as an artist.  Together, the students all created their own version of this sculpture using aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, and coffee filters.  Since we had so many wooden craft sticks leftover from a previous project, each student received a wooden platform onto which their dancer was hot glued upon completion.  The class seemed excited and proud of their creations and, yet again, I was fascinated by how original all of the creations turned out to be.  No one created a dancer that looked like any of the other dancers.


For further study, if you have access to it, please check out this dvd. We were able to check it out from our local library.  My daughter called it fascinating!

Next week, I’ll be introducing my students to Mary Cassatt, the first female artist to appear on our timeline!


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