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Degas: The Impressionist who inspired me to write

(Dancers Practicing at the Barre, 1877, Edgar Degas, in the public domain)

In the 10th grade, my life changed forever. I was assigned to write a biography about Impressionist artist Edgar Degas. At first, I had no idea who Degas was. To me, a well-known artist needed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle named in his honor. I knew of "modern" artist such as Monet or Van Gogh, but Degas was a mystery to me.

(Gif courtesy of

Before I dive into my love of Degas, here is a brief video to tell you his life story.

To me, Degas' ability to be a fly on the wall was the most interesting thing about him. He allowed viewers to see everyday trials and triumphs of working people. Here is an except from my paper describing my fifteen year old though process:

The Dance Class, painted in 1874, displays a ballet lesson commensing (De Vonyar 118). All the girls are wearing leotards and tutus with different colored saches. The girls enviously watch the girl with the pink coloured sach dance. The primary focus of the painting is the pink sashed girl dancing. She likes the attention brought upon her which is evidant by her little smirk. The dance teacher’s primary objective is to help the pink sashed girl and this annoys the other girls. In the background, the other girls play games, talk, and watch one another. They are growing tired and figity. Degas demonstrated the trials of a working dancer in The Dance Class (Richardson).

(The Dance Class, 1874, Edgar Degas, in the public domain)

This paper took on a new dimension when I discovered that the top essays would qualify for the Advanced Placement (A.P) English Language Course, also known as AP Lang. This class took the top students from novices to proficient writers. I wanted to be able to become a good writer. Growing up, I was diagnosed with a learning disability that sometimes makes reading and writing harder. I had to put in double the effort to get average results. I knew that taking AP Lang would give me the foundational knowledge for college and beyond. I was shocked when I an A. This grade qualified me to be in AP Lang.

(Gif courtesy of

For my sixteenth birthday, my mom surprised me with a girls' trip to New York City. The first words I muffled from being woken up as, " We're going to the Met." The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City is considered one of the best museums in the world. It houses works from across eons and civilizations. But in a corner on the Impressionist floor, there is an anteroom full of Degas. As I stared at the paintings and statues, I began to tear up, thinking how I have come full circle at the moment.

(A blurry photo of me at the MET in the Degas Room in 2013)

. If you had told fifteen-year-old Rachel that her future career would require her to write all day, she would be shocked. She would be so proud of her older self for being proficient enough to make a career around an area of weakness. To my fifteen-year-old self, you will have a lot more full-circle moments. You will have so many changes outside the scope of your imagination. While for Walt Disney, it started with a mouse, for you, it started with an Impressionist named Degas.

(Self Portrait, ca.1855-56, Edgar Degas, in the public domain)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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