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Jockeys before horse racing

Painting, 1879, 107.3×73.7 cm

Description of the artwork «Jockeys before horse racing»

Unlike Theodore Gericault, a passionate rider, Edgar Degas on a horse, most likely, did not even sit or was not very confident. Horse racing evoked passion rather platonic and contemplative in him. In the ballet class, on the hippodrome or in the women's bathroom, he remains a consistent, boring and keen author of backstage reports, but not a participant. They yawn, straighten straps on dresses, warm up, get ready, move wearily, wait for the exit, shift from one foot to the other, expect fame - and at the races, and in the backstage theater for Degas, the same thing happened: subtle, intermediate movements and states, the reverse side of the front, brilliant, tense life. But broad gestures, expressive movements, calculated on the fact that they will be considered even from the back rows, dramatic collisions, the limiting states of the artist Degas are not interested.

More than half of the pastels and Degas canvases written on the Longchamp racetrack are called “Before the start”. The rest is training and dressage. Dramatic moments directly from the race - a few pieces, and those very early.

This work was presented at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879 - and by that time Degas had already developed his own principles of expressiveness. Aware of the imminent and imminent impending blindness, he appreciates the sharpness of his gaze more than anyone. He cuts life into priceless fragments, fixes the slightest changes and awkward changes of postures, intermediate states and subtle movements. Obsessed with technical painting experiments, he uses pastels, gouache, oil and the so-called essence (oil paint, strongly, to transparency, diluted with solvent) on paper.

But the main claims from critics and spectators at that exhibition, of course, should have caused a pillar, brazenly located in the foreground. A pillar that cuts the composition into two parts and hides the face of the horse. In fact, it is located here with mathematical precision - and divides the canvas into parts 1/3 to 2/3. Writer Paul Valery wrote a long essay about Degas, and in almost every part of it insisted that there was as much mathematics in Edgar Degas’s art as the directness of inspiration: “Every work of Degas is serious. No matter how funny or even playful his pencil, pastel or brush might seem, their movements are never uncontrolled. Will dominates everything. He always believes that his line is still not accurate enough. He does not seek to achieve either eloquence or poetry of painting; he seeks only truth in style and style in truth. His art is like moralism's extremely clear and accurate prose, setting forth new and reliable observation. ”.

In Jockeys before the races, Degas pushes the jockey's figure to the right with all seriousness and logical calculation, cutting off the line of his shoulder and the croup of a horse. At the same time, the whole fragment of the field is left empty, exactly one third of the total width. Nothing unusual for a modern viewer, who has repeatedly clicked important events on the phone and did not manage to shift the viewfinder, trying to catch the most important thing in the focus and in the center of the frame. But in 1879, at an exhibition in the center of Paris, a virtual viewfinder, shifted by Degas away from the main characters, was perceived as intentional mockery. Also this post.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Paper

Date of creation: 1879

Size: 107.3×73.7 cm

Artwork in selections: 14 selections