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
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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