Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Steeplechase



Edgar Degas, Scene from the Steeplechase--The Fallen Jockey (1866)

The horse seems a perfect subject for the artist—it exhibits both beauty in movement and unpredictability in the power of nature. Edgar Degas was one artist who looked towards these beasts for artistic inspiration. During the 1860s, horse racing, particularly the steeplechase, was considered a popular pastime of the French well-to-do. The steeplechase originated in the English and Irish countryside, where the opponents would race towards a fixed point in the distance, typically a church steeple (hence the name). This early form of the steeplechase proved dangerous, sending riders to harsh landings, and occasionally—death. The first steeplechase is said to have taken place in County Cork, Ireland in 1752. Two daring men, Cornelius O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake, raced 4 ½ miles towards a distant church.[1] The accounts of this race solidified and popularized races of this nature. The French took this informal style of racing and gentrified it—creating an aristocratic pastime with rules and regulations.
Degas’ Scene from the Steeplechase—the Fallen Jockey (1866), was one of Degas’ largest paintings—measuring almost 7 by 5 feet (and currently on display at the National Gallery of Art). There is a stark disparity between the serene backdrop of man interacting with nature and the aggressive activities of the steeplechase. If one looks at the jockey, his delicate face portrays a sense of calm—even while he lies below the horse’s hooves and is subject to imminent danger. The jockey is said to have been based on Degas’ younger brother, Achille.[2] Perhaps that is why there is such a strong element of portraiture. Many sketches remain of Degas’ in depth study of this portion of the work. In this painting, Degas exhibits a noticeable amount of pentimento, or a reworking, where shadows remain of the original positions of both the horse’s tail and its inner-front leg. Stylistically, Degas juxtaposes the softness of the jockey’s face with the bold outlines of the horses. These outlines were seen in many of his final works, dating from the 1890s to the early 1900s.[3] The richness of the black brushstrokes symbolizes free-movement and at the same time—discipline. They sought to constrain and emphasize movement captured at a given moment.
  Clarice Smith, Leaving the Gate (2011)
A strong parallel can be seen between Degas’ equestrian pieces and works by the contemporary artist Clarice Smith, which are now on view in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. Smith’s Leaving the Gate (2011) and Steeplechase (2012) also make use of bold outlines to create movement in the dark figures of the horses. While her works emphasize form more than movement, Leaving the Gate shows a contrast of color that stresses the lively action from the serene setting. She makes use of lush oranges and dimensional black to frame her narrative. Aside from the obvious relation in subject matter, Smith brings a uniquely stylized view of this pastime. It is as though she captured a single moment in intense movement—showing grace in tension.    

[1]Degas: At the Races. Washington: National Gallery of Art, n.d. Print.
[2]"History of Steeplechase." Iroquois Steeplechase. N.p., 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2013.
[3]Schenkel, Ruth. "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History." Edgar Degas: Painting and Drawing. Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About the Blog

Ipsum Tempor

Sit amet

Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

Ultricies Eget

Coming Soon...

Coming Soon...
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Steeplechase



Edgar Degas, Scene from the Steeplechase--The Fallen Jockey (1866)

The horse seems a perfect subject for the artist—it exhibits both beauty in movement and unpredictability in the power of nature. Edgar Degas was one artist who looked towards these beasts for artistic inspiration. During the 1860s, horse racing, particularly the steeplechase, was considered a popular pastime of the French well-to-do. The steeplechase originated in the English and Irish countryside, where the opponents would race towards a fixed point in the distance, typically a church steeple (hence the name). This early form of the steeplechase proved dangerous, sending riders to harsh landings, and occasionally—death. The first steeplechase is said to have taken place in County Cork, Ireland in 1752. Two daring men, Cornelius O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake, raced 4 ½ miles towards a distant church.[1] The accounts of this race solidified and popularized races of this nature. The French took this informal style of racing and gentrified it—creating an aristocratic pastime with rules and regulations.
Degas’ Scene from the Steeplechase—the Fallen Jockey (1866), was one of Degas’ largest paintings—measuring almost 7 by 5 feet (and currently on display at the National Gallery of Art). There is a stark disparity between the serene backdrop of man interacting with nature and the aggressive activities of the steeplechase. If one looks at the jockey, his delicate face portrays a sense of calm—even while he lies below the horse’s hooves and is subject to imminent danger. The jockey is said to have been based on Degas’ younger brother, Achille.[2] Perhaps that is why there is such a strong element of portraiture. Many sketches remain of Degas’ in depth study of this portion of the work. In this painting, Degas exhibits a noticeable amount of pentimento, or a reworking, where shadows remain of the original positions of both the horse’s tail and its inner-front leg. Stylistically, Degas juxtaposes the softness of the jockey’s face with the bold outlines of the horses. These outlines were seen in many of his final works, dating from the 1890s to the early 1900s.[3] The richness of the black brushstrokes symbolizes free-movement and at the same time—discipline. They sought to constrain and emphasize movement captured at a given moment.
  Clarice Smith, Leaving the Gate (2011)
A strong parallel can be seen between Degas’ equestrian pieces and works by the contemporary artist Clarice Smith, which are now on view in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. Smith’s Leaving the Gate (2011) and Steeplechase (2012) also make use of bold outlines to create movement in the dark figures of the horses. While her works emphasize form more than movement, Leaving the Gate shows a contrast of color that stresses the lively action from the serene setting. She makes use of lush oranges and dimensional black to frame her narrative. Aside from the obvious relation in subject matter, Smith brings a uniquely stylized view of this pastime. It is as though she captured a single moment in intense movement—showing grace in tension.    

[1]Degas: At the Races. Washington: National Gallery of Art, n.d. Print.
[2]"History of Steeplechase." Iroquois Steeplechase. N.p., 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2013.
[3]Schenkel, Ruth. "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History." Edgar Degas: Painting and Drawing. Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Labels

Lorem ipsum

.

Lorem ipsum

Recent News

There was an error in this gadget

About

Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

Followers

Sociable

There was an error in this gadget