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  • Edgar Degas
    Jul 19, 1834 - Sep 27, 1917
  • At the Races in the Country - Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers.
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At the Races in the Country
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  • At the Races in the Country

  • Edgar Degas
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  • 1869
    Oil on canvas
    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, United States.

    DEGAS' EYE AT THE RACES OFTEN STRAYED to the spectators as well as the jockeys, and in this delightful small picture he has given us a scene of elegance and charm completely embodying French life of the period. In its day the composition must have seemed unusually daring, for the principal element in the design - the victoria of the gentleman driver - is placed in the bottom right of the canvas and sharply cut by the frame. Degas undoubtedly derived this point of view from photography, in which he had become deeply interested at this time.

    More important today is the controlled artistry with which the whole picture is planned and painted. "The most beautiful things in art come from renunciation," the painter was fond of saying, and he has here severely limited his colors to a few finely attuned and greyed hues. Here and there a stronger note balances the cool springtime green of the field and the delicate neutral sky, itself a miracle of subtle, atmospheric painting. Compared to the broken color and striking effects of light that the Impressionists were then employing, A Carriage at the Races seems definitely traditional, harking back to the harmonies of Corot rather than paralleling the color experiments of Monet. The firm, decisive drawing contributes to the clarity of the conception while the flat technique recalls the fact that Degas insisted that "nature was smooth."

    Amusing, as social comment, is the insistence of the English character of the scene, the victoria, the driver's top hat, the bulldog. English styles were then much the fashion in France among the upper classes.

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Other paintings by Edgar Degas:

At the Races - the Start
At the Races - the Start
At the Races 1868-1872
At the Races 1868-1872
Backstage at the Opera
Backstage at the Opera
Bad Mood (Sulking)
Bad Mood (Sulking)
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas As the son of a wealthy Parisian banking family, Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas originally planned to study law before opting to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1855. His studies there strongly emphasized traditional drawing skills. Degas excelled and his extraordinary draftsmanship became a hallmark of his work. In 1856, Degas traveled extensively throughout Italy where he studied renaissance and classical masterpieces.

As a founding member of the Impressionists, Degas helped to organize the ground-breaking exhibition of 1874, exhibiting 10 of his own pieces in this inaugural show. While historically labeled an Impressionist, Degas preferred the term "Naturalist". He seldom painted en plein- air. Instead preferring to work from sketches and models. The artist once said: "My art has nothing spontaneous about it, it is all reflection." His studies frequently convey an element of psychological tension, offering the viewer intimate vignettes of life in late 19th century Paris. Fascinated with the movement of forms through space, Degas often sketched dancers from the wings of theaters, working in pastel and charcoal to capture his subjects with an unrivaled immediacy. Women dancing or merely engaged in the activities of daily life consistently his favored subject. Scholarship is currently divided as to whether Degas was a misogynist or an early feminist but the raging controversy has yet to dampen enthusiasm for the artist's work.

Degas liked photography so he painted similar to how a camera would capture a picture.