Selected Works Of Degas Essay, Research Paper
Avant la Course Analysis
As one of the impressionist greats, Edgar Degas uses pastels to create a landscape with four horses with jockeys in Avant la Course (Race Horses). Like most Degas , instead of using intimate detail, this piece concentrates more on form and composition.
This Pastel uses depth as a quintessential part of its composition by the placement of the figures and the vegetation. Each horse with its rider is put one in front of the other forming a kind of diagonal line starting from the bottom left corner and fading toward the top right corner. Almost reaching the horizon line three-quarters of the way up the piece. Also, the three large trees behind the horses and another tree line much smaller behind them create the feeling of distance. Furthermore, the grass area left empty on the bottom
right corner adds to the feeling of space, but more importantly it forces attention to the subjects.
Looking at the two horses farthest from us, and the last jockey, it is easy to see Degas left some places unshaded. Places where we can see the grass even though part of a subject should block our view. Despite this however, the horses and jockeys are done in a strong solid form. Highly energized strokes in all different directions build layers to create the deep shadows contrasted by the bright highlights, which bring them to life. The environment surrounding them is done in the same manner. The grass and trees are made with the same energized strokes and contain the same dark shadows contrasted by the same luminous highlights.
Capturing our attention foremost are the jockeys because of the colors used. A bright primary color scheme is employed to make up their shirts and hats. Moving from closest to us to furthest from us: the first jockey is wearing a bright yellow shirt and hat with a blue vest, the second, a red shirt and hat with a yellow vest, the third, a blue shirt and hat, and finally the fourth is wearing a red shirt with a black vest. All of whom can be seen are wearing white pants with black boots. These colors pull together exaggerated colors used in their landscape
environment. For example, like the yellow and blue of the jockeys, highlighting
the grass is a bright yellow hue, and in some places a green that is almost blue. Another example is, the two horses closest to us have an underlying tone of red, like the jockeys.
Because the detail in this pastel is limited, it relies more on form and composition. Degas doesn t need to put much detail into the piece though. A master of composition he uses placement and space to create a feeling of real depth and distance in this piece. The colors and high-energy strokes he uses are for two reasons. First, so we can literally feel
the painting and not just look at it, and second, so we can optically blend the colors right there on the cardboard. What also makes this a strong piece is the way the primary colors of the jockeys are echoed in the landscape surrounding them and the horses they ride. Employing these elements, Degas creates a structurally sound, aesthetically pleasing
piece in Avant la Course.