Edgar Degas - At the Races. the Start 1862

At the Races. the Start 1862
At the Races. the Start
1862 33x47cm oil/canvas
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

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From Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge:
Degas often depicted horse racing, producing forty-five oil paintings featuring the subject. This early work, with four jockeys approaching the start of a race, reveals some of the initial challenges that Degas faced in this genre. In order to distinguish the four horses from each other in the foreground, and in an attempt to avoid a tangle of legs, he painted them in different shades of brown. Their anatomical features and poses exemplify Degas’s early reliance on both British prints and the work of the romantic painter Géricault for models of horses. The horse at the far left with its leg raised high, for instance, bears a close resemblance to a position from a dressage exercise rather than preparation for a race.
Degas’s depiction of horses in motion changed drastically over his career, and particularly after the 1887 publication of Eadweard Muybridge’s stop-action photographs showing the frame-by-frame movement of a galloping horse.