Before the Race (1871 – 1872) by Edgar Degas

Before the Race - Edgar Degas - 1871 - 1872

Artwork Information

TitleBefore the Race
ArtistEdgar Degas
Date1871 - 1872
Art MovementImpressionism

About Before the Race

The artwork “Before the Race” is an oil on panel genre painting by Edgar Degas created between the years 1871 and 1872. Degas, as a prominent figure of the Impressionist movement, utilized a technique that conveyed the essence of the subject matter through delicate interplay of light and color. This particular artwork falls within the ambit of Impressionism and exemplifies the artist’s fascination with scenes of contemporary life and equestrian subjects.

The artwork depicts a dynamic scene set outdoors where a group of jockeys atop their horses appears to be preparing for a race. The figures are casually scattered across the composition, with some facing the viewer while others are seen from behind or at side angles, suggesting the informal and unstructured moments that precede the event. The horses, rendered with a lively sense of movement, bear riders in various colorful racing silks, which add vibrancy to the muted tones of the landscape.

Degas’s distinctive brushwork is evident in the texture of the grass and sky, where sweeping gestures and subtle color shifts capture the atmospheric effects of the time of day. The horizon is marked by a pale sky that gradually darkens toward the top, conveying the expansive feeling of the open air. In the distance, various architectural features and industrial structures are vaguely outlined, hinting at the proximity of a town or racetrack facilities without detracting from the central focus on the riders and horses.

Overall, Degas’s artwork reveals his ability to merge observation with a distinctive Impressionist technique, creating a piece that is at once a portrayal of a specific social milieu and a testament to the artist’s enduring interest in the beauty and dynamism of horses and the sport of racing.

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