Edgar Degas, ‘Studies of Horses and Riders’, 1862-1864, Spalding Nix Fine Art
Edgar Degas, ‘Studies of Horses and Riders’, 1862-1864, Spalding Nix Fine Art

Known for his focus on contemporary subjects, French Impressionist Edgar Degas first began to depict horses in the 1860s. The increasing popularity of racing in Europe matched with Degas' interest in the subject as an avid spectator helped to advance equestrian themes into the forefront of his oeuvre. This delightful work - Étude pour Chevaux de Pur Sang - underscores Degas' level of confidence with the subject and his advanced understanding of horse musculature, particularly in the more elaborate studies showing the horses' legs in motion. Degas’ thoughtfully composed lines infuse this study with a sense of strength and energy, and reflect Degas' keen observation of this contemporary subject. The equestrian theme remained one of Degas' primary interests for the next thirty years, and these compositions eventually took their place among the most popular subjects of his career. This drawing has been authenticated by both Ted Reff in 2015, and Brame and Lorenceau in 1998.

About Edgar Degas

Though he rejected the label, Edgar Degas contributed significantly to Impressionism with his depictions of fleeting moments and images of modern Parisian life—in theaters, cafés, and, most iconically, ballet studios. “It is much better to draw what you can't see anymore but is in your memory,” he said. “You only reproduce what struck you, that is to say the necessary.” Degas was trained in a traditional academic style, which is particularly evident in the classical subjects of his early works, and he was a master draftsman and capturer of emotions. As his practice evolved, he developed a profound interest in the poses and physicality of ballet, producing approximately 1,500 depictions of dancers over the course of his career. Like many of his contemporaries, Degas was influenced by Japanese prints, which inspired him to experiment with asymmetrical compositions and unusual vantage points. He also worked in a wide range of mediums and techniques, and was particularly known for his use of pastel to depict the figure with an almost sculptural solidity.

French, 1834-1917, Paris, France, based in Paris, France

Exhibition Highlights

Fort Worth,
A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection