As one of the impressionist greats, Edgar Degas uses pastels to create a landscape with four horses with jockeys in Avant la Course (Race Horses). Like most Degas', instead of using intimate detail, this piece concentrates more on form and composition. This Pastel uses depth as a quintessential part of its composition by the placement of the figures and the vegetation.
Each horse with its rider is put one in front of the other forming a kind of diagonal line starting from the bottom left corner and fading toward the top right corner. Almost reaching the horizon line three-quarters of the way up the piece. Also, the three large trees behind the horses and another tree line much smaller behind them create the feeling of distance. Furthermore, the grass area left empty on the bottom right corner adds to the feeling of space, but more importantly it forces attention to the subjects. Looking at the two horses farthest from us, and the last jockey, it is easy to see Degas left some places unshaded. Places where we can see the grass even though part of a subject should block our view. Despite this however, the horses and jockeys are done in a strong solid form.
Highly energized strokes in all different directions build layers to create the deep shadows contrasted by the bright highlights, which bring them to life. The environment surrounding them is done in the same manner. The grass and trees are made with the same energized strokes and contain the same dark shadows contrasted by the same luminous highlights. Capturing our attention foremost are the jockeys because of the colors used. A bright primary color scheme is employed to make up their shirts and hats. Moving from closest to us to furthest from us: thefirst jockey is wearing a bright yellow shirt and hat with a blue vest, the second, a red shirt and hat with a yellow vest, the third, a blue shirt and hat, and finally the fourth is wear.