德加于1834年出生于巴黎，享受着适度富裕的生活方式。他的家人与他的外祖父出生的新奥尔良和海地的克里奥尔文化有关，并将他们的姓氏称为“De Gas”，这是Degas在成年后拒绝的一种做法。他于1845年参加了LycéeLouis-le-Grand（一所建于16世纪的着名中学）;毕业后他打算学习艺术，但他的父亲期望他成为一名律师，因此德加于1853年尽职尽责地就读于巴黎大学学习法律。说德加不是一个好学生将是轻描淡写，几年后，他被录取到了ÉcoledesBeaux-Arts并开始认真学习艺术和绘图技巧，迅速展示了他令人难以置信的才华。德加是一位天生的绘图员，能够通过简单的工具呈现多个主题的精确但艺术的绘画，这种技巧可以在他成熟为自己的风格时很好地为他服务 – 特别是他的作品描绘了舞者，咖啡馆顾客和其他看似被捕的人在他们的日常生活中没有意识到。 1856年，德加前往意大利，在那里度过了未来三年。在意大利，他对自己的绘画产生了信心;重要的是，在意大利，他开始研究他的第一部杰作，一幅他姨妈和她的家人的画作。
Born in Paris in 1834, Degas enjoyed a moderately wealthy lifestyle. His family had connections to the creole culture of New Orleans and Haiti, where his maternal grandfather was born, and styled their family name as “De Gas,” an affectation Degas rejected when he became an adult. He attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand (a prestigious secondary school established in the 16th century) in 1845; upon graduating he intended to study art, but his father expected him to become a lawyer, so Degas dutifully enrolled in the University of Paris in 1853 to study law. To say Degas was not a good student would be an understatement, and a few years later he was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts and began studying art and draftsmanship in earnest, quickly displaying hints of his incredible talent. Degas was a natural draftsman, able to render accurate but artistic drawings of multiple subjects with simple implements, a skill that would serve him well as he matured into his own style—especially with his work depicting dancers, café patrons, and other people seemingly caught unawares in their daily lives. In 1856 Degas traveled to Italy, where he lived for the next three years. In Italy he developed a confidence in his painting; importantly, it was in Italy that he began work on his first masterpiece, a painting of his aunt and her family.