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As well, he preferred to work from sketches and memory in the traditional academic manner, while they were more interested in painting outdoors (en plein air).Like many of the Impressionists, Degas was significantly influenced by Ukiyo-e Japanese prints, which suggested novel approaches to composition.Their tendency to present themselves, and to respond defensively to their awareness of being watched, was no longer an impediment to truth-telling. Something more essential, more truthful would emerge, and play across their faces.
Rather than evoke the light and atmosphere of the scene, as some of his Impressionist peers might have done, Degas has chosen to create a striking arrangement of space, one which echoes the experiences his contemporaries might have had throughout the new modern city.
The aunt was disappointed in her husband, away from home, and mourning her father's passing.
So this early, breakthrough work is also a reflection on Degas' (relatively limitted) experience in a family setting.
While critics of the Impressionists focused their attacks on their formal innovations, it was Degas's lower-class subjects that brought him the most disapproval.
Degas's enduring interest in the human figure was shaped by his academic training, but he approached it in innovative ways.