In the 19th century, racehorses were starting to be in vogue in Paris, influenced by the famed English races. Edgar Degas’ passion for horses was probably only surpassed by his obsession with ballet. In this Impressionist oil painting, the artist chooses a moment of calm before the intensity of the action of the race. The jockeys are calmly riding their horses, some talking to each other, some adjusting their clothes and gear. Most paintings would portray the moment of the race itself, or the horses racing each other, so the choice of the subject matter makes this piece rather unique and interesting.
There is a field of cottony green grass. The horizon line is placed just above the center of the painting, making this field look broad and vast. The leafy green grass gains light and yellow tones as it approaches the horizon and moves away into the background. The light is coming from outside of the canvas, on the top right. Few sticks of a white fence were painted on the background, but it’s not possible to see them in the area that the jockeys are hanging out, closer to the foreground. The fence possibly delimits the racing area.
On the back, there is a dark grove that divides the field from the sky. The round tree tops approach the scene from the left and move away into the distance, merging with some hills. Way on the back, some light spots suggest the existence of a few villages or houses around. The jockeys are the most exciting thing in this painting. Most of them ride brown and dark horses, but they all wear colorful outfits that contrast with all the rest of the scene. The horses and the men are relaxed. It’s possible to see that all the jockey wear bright yellow pants; however, their shirts are composed of several colorful hues.
On the foreground, to the right, three men are mounting their horses. The first one wears a pastel pink shirt and a bright dark orange hat. To his right two men ride along each other side by side. One of them wears a brown vest that looks like leather, and a deep blue shirt with a blue hat. His partner, on the far right of the painting, is fully dressed in yellow and his outfit is probably the one that stands out the most. Moving to the left and towards the background, there are other several jockeys, all of them mounting brown or dark horses and also wearing vivid, colorful shirts and hats. The brushstrokes in this painting are very Impressionistic.
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