Cavalier by Edgar Degas

  • This charcoal drawing was created by the famed French Impressionist Edgar Degas
  • It expressively displays exceptional energy and understanding of movement
  • The horse was one of Degas' favorite themes throughout his career
  • A similar composition of the same subject by Degas belongs to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-4704

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Edgar Degas
1834-1917 | French


Stamp signed (lower left); studio stamp (lower right)
Charcoal on paper

This original charcoal drawing by the great Edgar Degas embodies the energy, spontaneity and graceful sense of movement that one expects from this Impressionist master. Degas began painting equestrian scenes early in his career, and it is a theme that is as omnipresent in his oeuvre as his famed ballet dancers. Here, he captures a horse and its rider preparing for the hunt to begin with an Impressionist's eye for observation and daring composition.

The drawing was created as a highly-realized study for a larger oil entitled Le départ pour la chasse that was inspired by Degas’ trip to England in the autumn of 1873 where he observed the local nobility on their hunts. This drawing places a singular focus on one rider and his horse. Throughout his career, Degas was obsessed with capturing his subjects in a realistic state of motion, a quality emblematic of his work. The horse here seems to brace himself under the weight of its rider, while the man turns his head and waves his top hat in greeting to his hunting companions. The solid modeling of the horse's anatomy reveals Degas’ significant talents as a draftsman, while the composition’s unconventional perspective and cropped framing demonstrate the modernity of the artist’s drawings. 

Degas became consumed with two main themes throughout his career: the ballet and the horse. As a member of the prestigious Jockey Club de Paris, he was a frequent visitor to the horse races at Deauville and Longchamps, where he was able to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the horses at close quarters. Consequently, images of horses became a central part of his artistic output beginning in the 1870s — his paintings, drawings and sculptures all reveal his passion for the spectacle of equestrian sports. As a whole, this drawing is a beautiful interpretation of the subjects' movement and an exceptional example of Degas' skill in conveying naturalistic motion.

Although Degas depicted horses with frequency, this drawing is a particular rarity because it is a study for his only painting with a hunting motif. Additionally, this work relates closely to a pastel study of the same subject that now belongs to the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. These compositions are remarkably similar, with the horses and riders displaying almost identical posture and positioning, underscoring this work’s significance.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau. 

Circa 1873

Paper: 8 3/8“ high x 6 5/8” wide
Frame: 15 1/8“ high x 13 3/8” wide
Cavalier by Edgar Degas
Maker: Degas, Edgar
Period: 1816-1918
Origin: France
Type: Drawings
Depth: 1.13 Inches
Width: 13.38 Inches
Height: 15.13 Inches
Style: Impressionism
Canvas Width: 6.625 Inches
Canvas Height: 8.375 Inches
Cavalier by Edgar Degas
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