Jockeys Before the Race
Paris, exhibited 1879
Oil, essence, bodycolour and pastel on paper
107.3 x 73.7 cm
Degas’ racing pictures generally concentrate on the undramatic moments before the start.
Here, the starting-post bisects the composition, creating an instantaneous effect, suggestive of a snapshot. Figures and horses are obscured, cut by the frame and shown with the random feel of a fleeting glimpse.
The unconventional composition is matched by an experimental technique mixing oil, bodycolour, pastel and essence (oil thinned with turpentine). The overall lack of finish, with some quite accidental areas, challenged accepted conventions when the painting was shown at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition.
Purchased 1950 (No. 50.2)