Jockeys Before the Race (1869-72) by Edgar Degas

Jockeys Before the Race - Edgar Degas - 1869-72

Artwork Information

TitleJockeys Before the Race
ArtistEdgar Degas
MediumOil, essence, with touches of pastel on paper
Dimensions42 1/8 x 28 3/4 in. (107 x 73 cm)
Current LocationBarber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

About Jockeys Before the Race

Jockeys Before The Race is an oil, gouache, and pastel on card painting completed by Edgar Degas in c.1878-9. The painting depicts horses and jockeys in various positions waiting for the start of a race. Degas was known for his figure painting of ballet dancers, working-class women, and racehorses, and he repeatedly painted horse and rider scenes throughout his career. Degas was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s attempts to capture motion in still images, and he explored how movement could be suggested in a still image.

The starting-post bisects the composition in Jockeys Before the Race, creating an instantaneous effect. Degas manipulated his horse and jockey figures from one painting to the next, and he used stop-action photographs to capture movement in his horse racing scenes. The painting is known for its daringly designed surprise attack. All of Degas’ Impressionist paintings were created in the studio, but his interest in horse racing came from his visits to Normandy where he became fascinated with the pastime.

Overall, Jockeys Before The Race showcases Degas’ innovative approach to capturing movement in a still image. The painting captures the anticipation of the race, with the horses and jockeys frozen in time as they prepare for the competition. The use of vibrant colors and dynamic composition creates a sense of energy and motion, adding to the overall excitement of the scene. Jockeys Before The Race is a standout piece in Degas’ body of work, showcasing his interest in movement, sports, and the human form.

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