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Before the Race
Before the Race
Support: Tracing paper mounted to cardboard
Sheet: 57.5 x 65.4 cm (22 5/8 x 25 3/4 in.)
Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.27
Degas returned to the theme of horse and rider time and again throughout his career. Scholars believe that he executed the first version of this composition of four jockeys on horseback in a charcoal and pastel drawing. Several years later, he traced the composition, reversing its orientation to create the highly finished Cleveland pastel. The palette is intensified, the distance between the second and third jockeys is increased, and the foliage along the horizon has been added to suggest a lush spring day. In the final version, Degas repeated the Cleveland composition, but cropped it much more closely. The jockeys loom close to the foreground, their faces abstracted in complex layers of pastel that achieved a new level of freedom and energy of execution.
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