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Edgar Degas often enjoyed portraying evening horse races throughout his work. This common theme immensely captivated the artist as he felt that it was a prominent scene to showcase throughout his work. Degas commonly enjoyed giving his viewers a glimpse into the everyday social life of the upper class.
The artist was lucky enough to witness the lifestyle of the upper class. He was granted special access to the dressing rooms prior to ballet performances, entrance to ballet rehearsals and attendance to horse racing. Many of the rich desires befriending an artist in hopes that their portrait would be painted. Degas enjoyed illustrating the what went on prior to horse racing. Another similar piece includes Racehorses At Longchamp. The artist commonly used a similar style of blending all the figures together as one without bringing focus onto one individual throughout the piece. The oil on canvas piece showcases the scene of a group of people looking into the horse race. It seems as if the audience is a mix of upper-class individuals intertwined with the upper class and some races among the group. ItÕs evident that the audience is looking towards the bottom of the hill where the race begins.
While there are some horses at the top of the hill, they seem to be attached to the people's carriages. All of the people are faced towards the start of the race, rather than in the viewer's direction. Therefore, the viewer cannot get a glimpse of any of the character's faces. However, based in the messy neoclassical style of the work, it seems that Degas did not care for illustrating these figures with much detail. Rather, the artist uses dark colours to merge all of the bodies into one another. There is no focal point or captivating colour for the viewer to switch their attention towards. Rather, a mix of Hess people fall together as one. The other stunning element to note throughout the piece is the scenic background. Many of the artistÕs contemporaries such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Edouard Manet.
The stunning background fills with shades of blue and green. The rich green colours bleed gently into the trees and throughout the plains. The artist uses a darker shade of green to illustrate the trees. This colour merges from light to dark throughout the painting. While Degas did not use any focal point details the seize the viewer's attention onto the people, he did use a lighter green shade near the beginning of the race to showcase the scene of the painting. The viewer automatically looks onto the men preparing to race and is able to put the pieces together throughout the work. It's quite interesting to witness Edgar decide to focus with using dark shades throughout the painting rather than a few light colours throughout. Rather, these dark shades add a cool tone throughout the work as the viewer brushes over it.
A blue mixed with greys fills the sky in a gloomy feel. Degas uses small swipes of white painting to manifest clouds throughout the dark sky alluding to the idea of a stormy weather. Yet, with the immense lack of clouds, it's quite unclear why the sky is so dark, alongside the overall atmosphere of the piece. Perhaps the timing was nearing nightfall and Degas was illustrating the end of the horse races. Yet, as the men collect at the beginning of the race, it seems rather disbelieving to think that the event is coming to a close. It remains unknown why Degas felt the need to cover the painting in cool tones of gloom and melancholy. Nevertheless, the work remains a masterpiece for centuries to come.