“Degas was a banker’s son who scorned the rabble and loved tradition so much that he said of Louis XIV’s court: ‘They were dirty perhaps, but distinguished; we are clean but we are common.’ He was a fanatic anti-Dreyfusard and separated himself from his dearest Jewish friends for many years; he would even question a model about her race and dismiss her if she were Jewish.
“Edmond Duranty described Degas as ‘an artist of rare intelligence, preoccupied with ideas which seemed strange to the majority of his fellows… his brain was always active and boiling over; they called him the inventor of ‘social chiaroscuro.’
“Degas was by no means a bohemian, and for years he loved parties, but he was far less conformist than Manet, and when the latter advised him to accept a medal he exploded: ‘This is not the first time I have realized what a bourgeois you are, Manet.'”
Excerpted from Impressionism, by Phoebe Pool