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Standing Male Nude with Leg Raised [with Three Nude Figure Studies]

Although he was a leader of the French avant-garde style known as Impressionism, Degas, like all artists of his generation, received an academic art education based on copying casts of classical sculpture and the works of the Old Masters. It was only after such laborious study that students graduated to working from a live model. Degas trained under two followers of Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

This undated life-drawing (or académie) of a male nude—women weren’t permitted to model nude in the academies until later in the century—may have been done in Paris or while Degas was studying in Rome at the French Academy in the Villa Medici (October 1856 to July 1857). He is believed to have based his painting Young Spartans Exercising, ca. 1860 (The National Gallery, London), on such early explorations of the human figure. There is an inverted graphite drawing of the same model as seen from behind on the verso (Eskenazi Museum of Art 77.21.1A).

Edgar Degas
French, 1834–1917
Standing Male Nude with Leg Raised [with Three Nude Figure Studies]
ca. 1855–57
Black chalk and graphite on paper
Image/sheet: 19 ½ x 12 3/8 in. (49.5 x 31.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Evan F. Lilly Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley 77.21.1