Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Degas often depicted horse racing, producing forty-five oil paintings featuring the subject. This early work, with four jockeys approaching the start of a race, reveals some of the initial challenges that Degas faced in this genre. In order to distinguish the four horses from each other in the foreground, and in an attempt to avoid a tangle of legs, he painted them in different shades of brown. Their anatomical features and poses exemplify Degas’s early reliance on both British prints and the work of the romantic painter Géricault for models of horses. The horse at the far left with its leg raised high, for instance, bears a close resemblance to a position from a dressage exercise rather than preparation for a race.

Degas’s depiction of horses in motion changed drastically over his career, and particularly after the 1887 publication of Eadweard Muybridge’s stop-action photographs showing the frame-by-frame movement of a galloping horse.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, French (Paris, France 1834 - 1917 Paris, France)
At the Races: The Start
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Aux Courses, Le Départ
Alternate Title: At the Races, "They're Off" / Jockeys at Epsom
Work Type
c. 1860-c. 1862
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2700, European and American Art, 19th century, Impressionism and the Late Nineteenth Century
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
33 x 47 cm (13 x 18 1/2 in.)
frame: 45.7 x 59.7 x 7 cm (18 x 23 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: Degas
  • exhibition label: backing board, rectangular label, printed text: PENNSYLVANIA MUSEUM OF ART / FAIRMOUNT, PHILADELPHIA / ARTIST Edgar Degas [typewriter] / TITLE Aux Courses. Le Départ. [typewriter] / INSURANCE VALUE / SALES VALUE / LENDER Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University [typewriter] / ADDRESS OF LENDER Cambridge, Mass. [typewriter] / Penn. Mus. Form 38
  • exhibition label: backing board, rectangular label, printed: Sterling and Francine Clark / Art Institute / Temp. Regs. No. / 67/68 [handwritten, black ink]
  • exhibition label: backing board, rectangular label, printed text: LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM / EXPOSITION PARK / LOS ANGELES 7, CALIFORNIA / S. O. No. 58-217N [handwritten, blue ink] / Box No.
  • inscription: verso, left side of frame, red chalk: 121
  • exhibition label: backing board, rectangle label, printed text: Degas & America / THE EARLY COLLECTORS / High Museum of Art, Atlanta: Feb. 28 - May 27, 2001 / Minneapolis Institute of Arts: June 16 - Oct. 9 2001 / Edgar Degas / At the Races: The Start / Catalogue # 13
  • inscription: verso, top of frame, red chalk: D [illeg. text]
  • exhibition label: backing board, rectangle label, printed and typed text: Dex ID. 51 / National Gallery of Art / Washington D. C. / Exhibiti: Degas at the Races / Date: 04/12/98 - 07/12/98 / Artist: Edgar Degas / Title: At the Races: The Start / Lender: Fogg Art Museum / Cat. No. 13
Atelier Degas [Vente I, Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, March 26-27, 1818, no. 91], sold; to Léon Orosdi, Paris, sold [through his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 25, 1923, no. 12]. [Etienne Bignou, Paris and New York]. [Howard Young, New York, NY]. Annie Swan Coburn, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1934.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Publication History

Degas Vente, auct. cat. (Paris, France, 1918), pt. 1, no. 91, repr.

James Bolivar Manson, The Life and Work of Edgar Degas, The Studio, Ltd. (London, England, 1927), p. 37, repr. pl. 26

Exhibition of The Mrs. L. L. Coburn Collection Modern Paintings and Watercolors, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1932), p. 13, no. 7, repr. p. 37

[Unidentified article], Art Digest (May 15, 1933), vol. VII, no. 16, p. 33

Daniel Catton Rich, Catalogue of a Century of Progress: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture Lent from American Collections, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1933), p. 41, no. 279

Independent Painters of Nineteenth Century Paris, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1935), no. 11

Painters of 19th Century Paris, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1935)

Degas, 1834-1917, exh. cat., Pennsylvania Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA, 1936), no. 6, repr.

Paul André Lemoisne, Degas et son Oeuvre, Paul Brame and Cesar M. de Hauke (Paris, France, 1946-1949), II, no. 76. repr.

A loan exhibition of Degas for the benefit of the New York Infirmary, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Company (New York, NY, 1949)

The Book of Knowledge Annual, The Grolier Society (New York, NY, 1952), ill. p.

L'Art dans les Collections Universitaires Américaines, exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (Brussels, Belgium, 1956), no. 15, repr.

University Collections, exh. cat., College Art Association of America (New York, 1956), no. 15, p. 19, repr. p. 13

L'Art dans les Collections Universitaires Americaines, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon, France, 1957), no. 7

An exhibition of works by Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles, CA, 1958), no. 9, repr.

Degas: loan exhibition, for the benefit of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, inc., exh. cat., Wildenstein & Company (New York, NY, 1960), no. 8, repr.

[Unidentified article], Scholastic Newstime, Scholastic Magazines (New York, NY, February 1968), repr.

[Unidentified article], The Chronicle of the Horse (Berryville, VA, February 1968), repr.

Michèle Beaulieu, "Les Sculptures de Degas. Essai de Chronologie", La Revue du Louvre (1969), XIX, 6, p. 370

An exhibition of the works of Edgar Degas at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, with selected loans from other collections, exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA, 1970)

Martha Bennett Stiles, "A Boston Sortie: Degas and Mrs. Gardner", Mankind [magazine], Mankind Publishing Co. (Los Angeles, CA, August 1973), vol. IV, no. 2, pp. 48-51, repr. in color pp. 42-43

James N. Carpenter, Color in Art: A Tribute to Arthur Pope, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1974), p. 58-59, cat. 23, ill.

Patricia Connor and Lionel Lambourne, Derby Day 200, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts (London, England, 1979), no. 9.21, text p. 90, repr. in b/w

Rafael Fernandez and Alexandra R. Murphy, Degas in the Clark Collection, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA, 1987), repr. fig. 12a, b/w, p. 12 and text

Lorenz Eitner, An Outline of 19th Century European Painting, Harper & Row (New York, NY, 1988), repr. in b/w in vol. 2, p. 165, fig. 286

Jean Sutherland Boggs, Degas, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / National Gallery of Canada (New York, NY and Ottawa, Canada, 1988), repr. in b/w, fig. 51, p. 102

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 104, 239, repr. b/w cat. no. 327

Richard Kendall, Degas Landscapes, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, 1993), repr. in color fig. 53; text p. 65-67

[Reproduction only], MFA Today, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX, January 1994 - February 1994)., repr.

Jean Sutherland Boggs, Degas at the Races, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C., 1998), no. 13, pp. 14-15, 45-48, repr. in color

Virginia Spate, Degas Life and Works, MQ Publications Ltd. (London, UK, 2000), pp. 28-31, repr. in color with details

Ann Dumas and David A. Brenneman, Degas and America: The Early Collectors, exh. cat., High Museum of Art/MInneapolis Institute of Arts/Rizzoli (New York, NY, 2001), no. 13, pp. 108-109, repr. in color, p. 30

"City Watch", Art & Antiques (October 2005), p. 44, repr. p. 44

Gene Wolfe, "Degas's American Dawn", Museums Boston (spring 2005-summer 2005), vol. 9, no. 1, p. 59, detail repr. on cover; repr. p. 59

Christopher Reed, "Mad for Degas", Harvard Magazine (July 2005 - August 2005), vol. 107, no. 6, pp. 40-45, p. 45, ill.

Marjorie B. Cohn and Jean Sutherland Boggs, Degas at Harvard, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge and New Haven, 2005), p. 39; repr. in color as fig. 19, p. 41; p. 89; no. 4, p. 98

Daniel Roche and Daniel Reytier, A cheval! Ecuyers, amazones & cavaliers du XIV au XXI siecle, Association pour l'Academie d'Art Equestre de Versailles (Paris, 2007), pp. 27-29, repr. on p. 28.

Musée d'Art moderne André Malraux, Ville du Havre, De Delacroix à Marquet: Donation Senn-Foulds, Dessins, exh. cat., Somogy Éditions d'Art (Paris, France, 2011), p. 191, repr. p. 192 as fig. 84.1

Jay A. Clarke, ed., The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec: Drawings and Prints from the Clark, exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2013), repr. in color as fig. 42, p. 68; p. 71

Henri Loyrette, Degas at the Opéra, exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay (Paris, 2019), p.188, repr. p. 189 as fig. 187

Exhibition History

Exhibition of the Mrs. L.L. Coburn Collection, Modern Paintings and Watercolors, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 04/06/1932 - 10/09/1932

A Century of Progress Art Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 06/01/1933 - 11/01/1933

Independent Painters of 19th Century Paris, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 03/15/1935 - 04/28/1935

Degas, 1834-1917, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 11/01/1936 - 11/30/1936

Unidentified Exhibition, Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1938, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, 04/01/1938 - 05/31/1938

Unidentified Exhibition, Toronto Art Gallery, 1940, Toronto Art Gallery, Toronto, 11/01/1940 - 11/30/1940

A loan exhibition of Degas for the benefit of the New York Infirmary, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 04/06/1949 - 05/14/1949

Monet and the Beginning of Impressionism, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, 09/01/1949 - 11/30/1949

Two Sides of the Medal, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 09/28/1954 - 10/31/1954

University Collections, [Unknown venue, Malmo, Sweden], Malmo, 06/30/1956 - 07/15/1956; Centraal Museum Utrecht, Utrecht, 08/04/1956 - 09/08/1956; City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 09/18/1956 - 10/14/1956; Senate House, London, 10/22/1956 - 10/27/1956; Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, 11/05/1956 - 11/17/1956; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Brussels, 12/08/1956 - 12/30/1956; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège, Liege, 01/12/1957 - 02/10/1957

Degas: Loan exhibition, for the Benefit of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, Inc., Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 04/07/1960 - 05/07/1960

Impressionism, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, 11/01/1962 - 12/31/1962

Color in Art: A Tribute to Arthur Pope, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/25/1974 - 06/16/1974

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Derby Day 200, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 04/05/1979 - 07/01/1979

Degas Landscapes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 01/21/1994 - 04/03/1994; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 04/24/1994 - 07/03/1994

Birth of Impressionism, Tobu Museum of Art (Tobu Bijutsukan), Tokyo, 04/25/1996 - 06/30/1996

Degas at the Races, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 04/12/1998 - 07/12/1998

Degas at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/01/2005 - 11/27/2005

Re-View: S427 Impressionist & Postimpressionist Art, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/02/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 2700 Impressionism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 10/11/2016; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/14/2017 - 11/16/2017; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 07/14/2022

Degas: A Passion for Perfection, Denver Art Museum, Denver, 02/11/2018 - 05/20/2018

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at