At the Races: Before the Start (Primary Title)
Race Course: Before the Start (Former Title)

Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917 (Artist)

ca. 1885–1892
oil on canvas
Unframed: 15 3/4 × 35 3/8 in. (40.01 × 89.85 cm)
Framed: 24 1/4 × 43 7/8 in. (61.6 × 111.44 cm)
This painting belongs to a series of horizontal compositions that Degas dedicated to the subject of horse racing. Multiple sketches for these works exist and allow a better understanding of the artist’s creative process. The jockey and his mount in the center of this canvas likely derive from the small sketch Jockey in Blue on a Chestnut Horse, which is also on display in this gallery. The scene is a composite of distinct studies that Degas skillfully grafted into a coherent depiction of the start of a race. Rather than representing an actual moment in time, the artist displayed a diversity of equine postures and varied dynamics between horse and rider. Degas treated the landscape with a simplicity that verges on abstraction, emphasizing the vital aspect of the movements and interactions of these figures. Additional figures are visible beneath the retouched areas on the right side of the painting, and X-rays have revealed that he deliberately reduced the conspicuous features of the landscape by eliminating a fence that ran diagonally across the scene.
Signed lower left: "Degas"
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
2019-2020: "Van Gogh Monet Degas, The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", Palazzo Zabarella, Padua, Italy, October 26, 2019 - March 1, 2020

2019-2021: Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN, February 2 - May 5, 2019; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS, April 4, 2020 - January 10, 2021

2018: "Country Life: Masterpieces from the Mellon Collection of MVFA", Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris, France, September 4 - December 2, 2018

2018: "Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", The Frick Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, March 17 - July 15, 2018; Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 22 - September 22, 2019

Paul Durand-Ruel and Impressionism, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, October 8, 2014 - February 8, 2015; National Gallery, London, March 4 - May 31, 2015; Philadelphia Museum of Art, June 18 - September 13, 2015

Degas’s Method, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 6-Sep. 1, 2013

Degas: Master of French Art, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Dec. 12, 2008-March 22, 2009

L’Impressionisme vu d’Amérique, Musée Fabre, Monpellier, June 2-Sept. 9, 2007; Musée de Grenoble, Oct. 9, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008

A Day at the Races: Manet, Degas, and Images of the Horse, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., April 12 – July 12, 1998

Degas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, May 23-July 9, 1978

Celebration, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Oct. 25-Jan. 5, 1975

Degas’ Racing World, Wildenstein & Co., New York, March 21-April 27, 1968

French Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, March 17-May 1, 1966

Sport and the Horse, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, April 1-May 15, 1960

Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni, Yale University Art Gallery, May 8-June 18, 1956

Degas, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, 1937

Fifty-ninth Exhibition, Liverpool, 1933

French Art, Royal Academy, London, 1932

Grafton Galleries, London, 1905
Loyrette, Henri, Leïla Jarbouai, Kimberly A. Jones, and Marine Kisiel. Degas - à L'Opéra. Paris: Musées D'Orsay/ Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais, 2019. (fig. 188, p. 189)

Oberthür, Mariel. Edgar Degas En Normandie: Le Peintre Du Cheval Et Des Courses. Montreuil: Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2018. fig. 113, pp. 150-151

Patry, Sylvie. Inventing Impressionism –Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market. London: National Gallery Company, Ltd., 2015. fig 124, p. 193. cat 15, p. 240

Patry, Sylvie. “Paul Durand-Ruel : Le pari de l'impressionnism”. Paris : Réunion des musées nationaux, 2014. fig 100, p. 145, cat 19, p.166.

Jane Kinsman, Degas The Uncontested Master (Canberra, Australia: National Gallery of Australia, 2008) p. 78, 249, cat. no. 22, color ill. pp. 10 (det.), 79.

Dan Bartges, Color is Everything (Richmond, VA: The Oaklea Press, 2008)
pp. 49-50, color ills. pp. 40 & 59 (det.).

Jane Kinsman, “Degas: Master of French Art,” National Gallery of Australia’s Art on View issue 56, summer 2008-2009, pp. 10-11, color ill. p. 13 + as icon image for the NGA’s “Degas: Master of French Art,” exhibition, the painting was published in numerous promotional pieces and gift shop products.

Jill DeVonyar & Richard Kendall, Degas and the Art of Japan exhibition catalogue (Reading, PA: Reading Public Museum, in asso. with Yale University Press, 2007) color ill. fig. 95, p. 95.

Mural didactic for Degas and the Art of Japan exhibition, Reading [Penn.] Public Museum, 2007.

L’Impressionisme, de France et d’Amérique: Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas… Versailles: Éd. Artlys, 2007, published in conjunction with exhibition at Musée Fabre, Monpellier, June 2-Sept. 9, 2007; Musée de Grenoble, Oct. 9, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008, pp. 158-159 (illus.).

Rick Brettell et al, L’Impressionnisme, de France et d’Amerique ex. cat. (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux in asso. with Musée Fabre, Montpelier, 2007) pp. 158-159, color ill. pp. 128-129 (det.), 158-159.

Cormack, Malcolm. Country Pursuits: British, American, and French Sporting Art from the Mellon Collections in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (cat. no. 121, pp. 422-23)

Paul Mellon in His Own Words dvd (Washington DC: National Gallery, 2007), Title 17, chpt. 3

Jean Boggs, Degas at the Races exhibition catalogue (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1998) pp. 154, 155, 258, cat. no. 94, color ill. p. 155 & color det. back cover.

Degas at the Races 1999 Calendar (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art in association with Pomegranate, 1998)

Anne Barriault, Selections Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1997) p. 73, ill. (color).

Philip Herrera, "A Most Generous Man," Town & Country, Vol. 148, No. 5175, Dec. 1994, ill. p. 161.

James S. Wamsley, "Horses and Hounds," Southern Accents, Vol. 17, No. 5, Sept/Oct 1994, p. 60.

Pinkney L. Near, “European Drawings and Paintings to 1900,” Antiques, VMFA issue, Aug. 1990, color plate IX, pp. 266-267.

Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge, Degas, Paris: Flammarion, 1988, p. 279 (illus.).

William H. Higgins, Jr., “A Tribute to Paul Mellon, the Virginian,” Arts in Virginia, Vol. 27, No. 1, 1988, color illus. pp. 6-7.

Laura C. Liebman, “An Incredible Passion,” Southern Accents, July-August 1986, color illus. p. 20.

Pinkney L. Near, French Paintings, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1985, no. 14, 32-33, color illus.

Richard R. Brettell and Suzanne Folds McCullagh, Degas in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago and New York, 1984, p. 126.

Degas: an exhibition at the Virginia Museum, published in conjunction with exhibition, May23-July 9, 1978, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1978, no. 11.

Jacques Lassaigne and Fiorella Minervion, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, no. 687 (illus.).

Degas’ Racing World: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, published in conjunction with exhibition, March 21-April 27, 1968, New York: Wildenstein, 1968, n.p. (illus.).

William M. Kane, “Gauguin’s Cheval Blanc,” Burlington Magazine, July 1966, p. 361, pl. 31.

Sport and the Horse, published in conjunction with exhibition at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, April 1-May 15, 1960, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1960, p. 71 (illus.).

Paul André Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. 2, Paris, 1946, no. 502, pp. 278-279 (illus.).

Camille Mauclair, Degas, Paris: Éditions Hypérion, 1937, p. 85 (illus.).

Arsène Alexandre, “Degas,” L’Art et les Artistes, February 1935, no. 154, p. 171 (illus.).

CommemorativeC atalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, January-March 1932, Oxford and London, 1933, no. 351.

René Huyghe, L’Amour de l’Art, 1931, p. 272 (illus.).

Julius Meier-Graefe, Degas, London: E. Benn, 1923, pl. LIV.

Henri Hertz, Degas, Paris: F. Alcan, 1920, p. 26.

Louis Hourticq, “E. Degas,” Art et Decoration, July-Dec. 1912, p. 97 (illus.).

Paul André Lemoisne, Degas, Paris: Librairie centrale des beaux-arts, 1911, p. 79 (illus.).

Georges Grappe, “Edgar Degas,” L’Art et les Beau, 3rd year, vol. 1, 1908, p. 6 (illus.).

Gustave Geffroy, “Degas,” L’Art et les Artistes, April 1908, p. 15 (illus.).
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