Racehorses before the Stands (1872) by Edgar Degas

Racehorses before the Stands - Edgar Degas - 1872

Artwork Information

TitleRacehorses before the Stands
ArtistEdgar Degas
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationMusée d'Orsay, Paris, France

About Racehorses before the Stands

The artwork “Racehorses before the Stands” is a masterpiece created by the French artist Edgar Degas in 1872. This splendid oil on canvas embodies the Impressionist movement to which Degas contributed significantly. As a genre painting, it captures a moment of everyday life and is currently housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. The genre itself is characteristic of the movement’s interest in capturing the ephemeral nature of modern life.

The artwork portrays a scene at a horse race, a subject that Degas frequently returned to in his oeuvre. In the painting, several racehorses with their jockeys are positioned in the foreground, awaiting or having just completed a race. The horse closest to the viewer stands out with its muscular build and the stark shadow it casts on the ground, epitomizing the strong, ambient light that infuses the scene. Each horse and jockey are depicted with varying degrees of detail, lending a sense of movement and spontaneity that is so key to Impressionist works.

Beyond the horses, the stands are filled with spectators, their attire rendered in quick, impressionistic brushstrokes that convey the lively atmosphere of the race day. The use of color and light is particularly striking, with warm hues juxtaposed against the cooler tones in the background, and reflections are implied on the silhouettes of the figures. Degas’s strategic placement of the horizon and his treatment of figures in both the foreground and background give the viewer a sense of space and depth. The overall composition shows a snapshot of leisurely activity, capturing the essence of a moment in time with a dynamic and vivid representation that is both immediate and compelling.

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