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Edgar Degas

the racetrack

Between 1876 and 1887

Make sense of the insignificant

In the middle of the 19th century, the art world witnessed the emergence of a new technology which promised to radically upset the whole of visual culture: photography. Like other members of the Impressionist group, Edgar Degas was passionate about this mode of producing images in which he saw an embodiment of progress.


Quickly, he understands the potential of photography as much as its limits. He notes in particular that the photographer, unlike the painter, does not arrange his figures to his liking.

in the frame since it can only capture a fragment of the scene unfolding in front of it. This results in images with sometimes haphazard composition, with characters cut off by the frame or concealing each other. This inherent disadvantage of photography, Degas perceives it as a vector of modernity, able to translate the tumult and the agitation of his time. Thus, fascinated like his impressionist friends by the fleeting and ephemeral nature of our perceptions, he creates paintings whose figures are delivered to the same fate as the truncated subjects of the first photographs.

What we can take away:

Whether we like it or not, our daily life is full of insignificant and sometimes upsetting events, which we welcome with resignation as necessary evils. However, if we try to understand the ins and outs, they can become unexpected sources of inspiration.

Related theme: Creativity
Related topic: Method
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