Edouard Manet, Les Courses, a lithograph

France, late AD 1860s

The thrill of the races

Edouard Manet (1832-1883) is sometimes called the first Modernist and the last Old Master. Although he always sought to align himself with the art of the past, many of Manet's paintings caused scandals in their day. His bold subjects, stark tonal contrasts, and bravura handling of paint paved the way for an artistic revolution. His Le Déjeuner Sur l'Herbe ('Luncheon on the Grass'), was not accepted fot the Salon, and was instead exhibited in 1863 at the Salon des Refusés, where it aroused the hostility of the critics and the enthusiasm of a group of young painters who later formed the nucleus of the Impressionists. He was accepted by the establishment only very late in his life.

This print, Les Courses ('The Races'), shows Manet's drawing at its most vigorous. The viewpoint is dramatic; the observer is placed in the centre of the racetrack awaiting the horses' imminent stampede. The railing slopes away at an unnerving angle. The lower right-hand corner dissolves into furious scribbling, with the lithographic crayon used on its side as well as its point.

Manet was a keen racegoer, often attending with his fellow artist Degas, whom he met while Degas was copying Velazquez' Infanta Maria Margarita in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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More information


K. Adler, Manet (Oxford, Phaidon, 1986)

F. Carey and A. Griffiths, From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1978)


Height: 365.000 mm
Width: 514.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1949-4-11-3340


Dodgson Bequest


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