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Unlike many of his fellow Impressionists, Degas did not depict the pastoral delights of outdoor leisure pursuits, such as boating or picnics, or practise landscape painting as an end in itself. He chose instead to concentrate on the seamier sides of life, making down-to-earth paintings of laundresses, ballet dancers and women at their toilet. He also executed a number of works on the themes of horses and horse-racing. From about 1880, when his eyesight was failing. Degas turned to making sculptures on a relatively small scale. This particular work, together with a number of other bronzes of horses, is thought to have been inspired by the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge showing horses in motion.

September 2004