Description: Painted circa 1871-72 and reworked by the artist circa 1874-78. signed Degas (lower left) oil on cradled panel
Dimensions: 32.5 by 40.5 cm.
12 3/4 by 15 7/8 in.
Exhibited: Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, Degas / Cézanne, 1913, no. 23
Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Arts; Kyoto, Musée de la Ville; Fukuoka, Centre Culturel, Degas, 1976-77, no. 14, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
New York, Acquavella Galleries Inc., Edgar Degas, 1978, no. 12, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery; Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, The Private Degas, 1987, no. 50
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Ottawa, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Degas, 1988-89, no. 158, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Literature: George Moore, "Degas", in Kunst und Künstler, vol. III, Berlin, 1908, p. 140, illustrated
Georges Grappe, "Edgar Degas", in L'Art et le Beau, vol. I, Paris, 1911, p. 17, illustrated
Gabriel Mourey, "Edgar Degas", in The Studio, London, May 1918, vol. 73, p. 129, illustrated (as dating from 1875)
Julius Meier-Graefe, Degas, London, 1923, pl. XII, illustrated (as dating from circa 1872)
Marie Dormoy, "La Collection Arnhold", in L'Amour de l'Art, vol. VII, Paris, 1926, p. 245 (mentioned)
John Walker, "Degas et les maîtres anciens", in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1933, vol. X, p. 118 or 181, fig. 17, illustrated
Georges Rivière, Mr. Degas, bourgeois de Paris, Paris, 1935, p. 139, illustrated (as dating from 1872)
Camille Mauclair, Degas, London and Toronto, 1938, p. 82, illustrated
Paul-André Lemoisne, Degas et son ?uvre, Paris, 1946, vol. II, p. 209, no. 387, illustrated (as dating from 1875-78)
Pierre Cabanne, Edgar Degas, Paris, 1957, p. 28 (mentioned)
Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 107, no. 434, illustrated
Dr Peter Nathan, Dr. Fritz Nathan and Dr. Peter Nathan, 1922-1972, Zurich, 1972, no. 79
Fiorella Minervino, Tout l'?uvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, no. 434
Ian Dunlop, Degas, London, 1979, p. 119, no. 107, illustrated in colour (titled Before the Start and as dating from circa 1875)
Paul-André Lemoisne, Degas et son ?uvre, New York and London, 1984, vol. II, p. 209, no. 387, illustrated (as dating from circa 1875-78)
Nicolaas Teeuwisse, Vom Salon zur Secession, Berlin, 1986, p. 223 (mentioned)
Eunice Lipton, Looking into Degas, Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1986, p. 201 (mentioned)
Ambroise Vollard, Degas, An Intimate Portrait, New York, 1986, p. 17, illustrated
Richard Thomson, The Private Degas, London, 1987, p. 98, pl. 127, illustrated in colour
Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel and Mark Rosenthal, Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, The Annenberg Collection (exhibition catalogue), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1989, fig. 132, illustrated
Jean Sutherland Boggs, Degas at the Races (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 108, no. 57, illustrated in colour (titled Out of the Paddock (Racehorses) and as dating from 1868-72)
Michael Dorrmann, Eduard Arnhold - Eine biographische Studie zu Unternehmer- und Mäzenatentum im Deutschen Kaiserreich, Berlin, 2002, p. 345 (mentioned)
Provenance: Ferdinand Bischoffsheim (acquired before April 1872)
Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above in late April 1872 and titled Sortie du pesage)
Jean-Baptiste Faure, Paris (acquired from the above at Degas' request on 5th March 1874 and later returned to Degas)
Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on 16th October 1891)
Emil Heilbuth, Weimar and Berlin (on deposit from 28th October until 13th November 1891)
Theodor Behrens, Hamburg (on deposit from 22nd until 29th February 1892)
Durand-Ruel, New York (acquired on 14th June 1892)
Cyrus Lawrence, New York (acquired from the above on 5th March 1894)
Durand-Ruel, New York (acquired from the above on 8th February 1901)
Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above on 2nd February 1910)
Galerie Cassirer, Berlin (on deposit from the above on 13th March 1911 and acquired on 30th September 1911)
Eduard Arnhold, Berlin (acquired from the above on 18th October 1911 and thence by descent)
Fritz Nathan, Zurich (acquired from the above circa 1965, thence by descent; sale: Christie's, London, 24th June 1991, lot 7)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Notes: A passionate observer of modern life, fascinated with performance and ritual, Degas developed two main themes throughout his artistic career: ballet dancers and horse races. During the 1860s and 1870s, Degas depicted racehorses only occasionally; he increasingly focused on this subject throughout the 1880s, probably responding to the encouragement of dealers and collectors among whom these paintings were gaining in popularity. In depicting horse racing scenes, Degas followed the 19th century tradition of equestrian painting established by artists such as Théodore Géricault (fig. 1), Eugène Delacroix and Alfred de Dreux, and taken up by his fellow Impressionists Manet, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.
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Having served in the infantry between the autumn of 1870 and the spring of 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war, Degas probably started working on the present painting on his return to Paris, and sold it by April 1872. However, he seems to have been unsatisfied with several of his works from this period, or to have considered them unfinished, for in March 1874, Degas persuaded his patron, Jean-Baptiste Faure, to buy from Durand-Ruel six of his pictures, including the present work, that he wanted off the market. Faure (1820-1914) was a singer popular at the Opéra, and a patron of the arts, especially Impressionist painters. He was the most important collector of Degas' works in the 1870s, and one of the first collectors of Manet's paintings. Having had a chance to re-work Les Chevaux de courses to his satisfaction, Degas sold the work back to his dealer Durand-Ruel in 1891.
Discussing the present work, referring to it by its English title Racehorses, Jean Sutherland Boggs wrote: "One of Degas' few racing paintings from the seventies is Racehorses, originally called Out of the Paddock. It was probably first painted not long after Racehorses at Longchamp [fig. 2], and the landscape and the jockeys' silks and positions are similar. Originally Degas was disappointed with Out of the Paddock, since it was one of the five [sic.] paintings he had asked Faure to buy back for him from Durand-Ruel in 1874. Although he did not sell it again until 1891, Degas was able to make the changes in it as he wished. Most of these probably occurred not long after the painting was returned" (J. S. Boggs, op. cit., pp. 106-07).
"It is difficult to determine when the jockeys were painted. The rider controlling a balking horse at the far left and a more sedentary jockey putting his weight on his hand at the far right became stock figures in Degas' works and, although somewhat amorphous here, may have been painted either before 1872 or after 1874. The same is true of the more subdued jockeys in the background. The two jockeys closest to the picture plane were likely there from the beginning. The profile is a reminder of Degas' continuing efforts since The Gentlemen's Race of 1862. The back of the jockey echoes his studies from about 1868 and, in particular, of the jockey in Racehorses at Longchamp [fig. 2]. Their relationship to each other is based on the drawings Degas had made of the procession of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence [fig. 3]" (ibid., p. 107).
The parallels between Degas' depictions of dancers and those of horses have often been pointed out by art historians. Discussing his racing scenes of the 1870s, Ian Dunlop observed: "These works, like their ballet counterparts, are small in scale and delicate in colour, the silks worn by the jockeys corresponding to the costumes and ribbons worn by the dancers. The horses and their riders, like the ballet dancers, are anonymous and the racecourses have generally proved hard to identify" (I. Dunlop, op. cit., p. 120). In the same way as Degas often captured ballet dancers away from the spotlight of the stage, in the more informal moments such as warming up before a performance or resting after the training, his horse paintings usually focus on the more unofficial situations before or after the race. This is particularly visible in Le Champ de courses, jockeys amateurs of 1874-87 (fig. 4), a composition closely related to the present work. Here, Degas depicted some of the same jockeys that appear in Les Chevaux de courses, although the focus has shifted from the centre to the right of the canvas, where a carriage overlaps with the horses, creating an impression of a chance momentary glimpse, rather than a carefully staged composition. In the present work, a similar effect is achieved by introducing the central figure dressed in black, turned with his back to the viewer, as well as by the seemingly random scattering of the horses moving in all directions. It is this nonchalance of composition, coupled with a refined, masterful execution, that makes this one of Degas' most accomplished early horse paintings.