Degas, Thoroughbred Horse Walking
Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917). Thoroughbred Horse Walking, cast 1919-21. Bronze 5 3/8”H x 4 1/8”W x 8 3/8”D. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo by Katherine Wetzel © VMFA

Enjoy this splendid collection of more than 40 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by artists as varied as Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Raoul Dufy, and Théodore Géricault. The exhibit represents every major movement in French art from Romanticism to Fauvism, and was organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) from its artworks, including the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.  “Omnipresent in 19th-century France, the horse was portrayed in every manner and style by all types of artists,” note exhibition organizers from the VMFA.

Highlights from the exhibit include:
Two sculptures and three pencil studies by Edgar Degas — During the late 1860s, Degas visited the race tracks at Longchamp near Paris where he made hundreds of drawings of horses and jockeys. These pencil studies highlight the beauty and musculature of the animals, and influenced his work back in the studio. He expressed his artistry in both paintings and sculptures, such as the graceful “Thoroughbred Horse Walking”.

Alfred De Dreux was the favorite equestrian artist of Emperor Napoleon III. His piece, “A Trumpeter of the Life Guards”, reflects the popularity of English equestrian themes in French society. This trumpeter, whose coat bears the cypher of Queen Victoria, is from the Life Guards, a senior Regiment in the British Army.  The trumpeters rode grey-white horses so they would stand out from the rest of the military officers, and thus were more visible when communicating orders to the calvary. This exquisite work displays the rich gold and red details of both uniform and flag, the bright metalwork on the bridle and saddle, and the beautiful markings of the dappled grey steed.

Alfred De Dreux, A Trumpeter of the Life Guards
Alfred De Dreux (French, 1810-1860). A Trumpeter of the Life Guards, ca. 1851. Oil on canvas. 36”H x 28”W
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo by Travis Fullerton © VMFA

Raoul Dufy’s watercolor on paper, “Champ de Courses à Deauville”  In this large work, the vibrant colors of the jockeys’ silks contrast nicely with the large swath of bright green representing the racing field. Dufy’s elegant lines indicate the sleek figures of high society spectators at Deauville, while waving flags and a bright sky make for a festive day at the races.

The National Sporting Library & Museum is located in Middleburg, Virginia, the heart of beautiful hunt country. Founded in 1954, the renowned research library and art museum highlight the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. Horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, foxhunting, polo, coaching and wildlife are among the subjects one can explore here.

“The French Horse from Géricault to Picasso: Works from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.” Presented by the National Sporting Library & Museum, through July 31, 2016.National Sporting Library & Museum, 102 The Plains Rd, Middleburg, VA

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Phil Tremo is the France Today Ambassador for Washington DC. Phil has been charmed by France ever since a school trip to the popular Festival d’Avignon. Over the years, he has explored many regions of l’Hexagone, including a recent vacation to Champagne to pick grapes during harvest season - Santé! Back at home in Washington, D.C., he enjoys a variety of French cultural events, including films, concerts, and language classes. He is excited to be representing France Today in the D.C. area.

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