Before the Start (1878) by Edgar Degas

Before the Start - Edgar Degas - 1878

Artwork Information

TitleBefore the Start
ArtistEdgar Degas
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationE.G. Bührle Foundation, Zürich, Switzerland

About Before the Start

The artwork “Before the Start” by Edgar Degas, painted in 1878, exemplifies the aesthetic of the Impressionist movement, employing oil on canvas as its medium. Belonging to the genre painting category, this work is currently housed in the E.G. Bührle Foundation, Zürich, Switzerland. It captures a scene reflective of the everyday experience and leisure activities typical of the period it was created.

In the artwork, a series of jockeys on horseback are depicted, appearing to be in a preparatory state before a race. The horses and riders are rendered in various poses, with some horses appearing restive while others stand patiently. The riders are dressed in traditional riding attire, complete with vibrant racing silks, caps, and riding boots, which offer a glimpse into the fashion and customs of the late 19th century. The backdrop consists of a subdued landscape, likely a racetrack, with a sparse representation of the sky implying an open, natural setting.

Degas’s ability to capture the sense of movement and the nuanced postures of both the animals and their riders is evident. Characteristic of the Impressionist style, the brushstrokes are swift and visible, imbuing the scene with a sense of dynamism and spontaneity. The composition leads the viewer’s eye along the lineup of jockeys, inviting contemplation of the moments just before the start of a race, filled with anticipation and concentration.

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