Horse with the raised step Degas
Hand patinated reproduction. Mold made from a print of the original work made by Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas, known as Degas, on display at the Musée d'Orsay.
Even though he was known mainly as a painter, from the 1860s onwards, modelling occupied an increasingly important place in the work of Degas, and it became his principal mode of expression by the end of his career.
Except for The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, exhibited in 1881, his sculptures were unknown during his lifetime. They were discovered only after he died in 1917.
Out of about one hundred and fifty pieces found in his workshop, only seventy-three waxes could be saved. They were handed over to Hébrard who founded twenty-two series in bronze, using the lost wax method, and marked them from A to T. They were exhibited for the first time in 1921. The P series entered the Louvre in 1930.
Modelling gave Degas a new range of experience. "The older I grow, the more I realise that to achieve [...] a precision so perfect that it gives an impression of life, one has to resort to the three dimensions [...] because there is no place for the more-or-less here", he told the critic Thiebault-Sisson.
If he turned to the same subjects - horses, dances, bathing women - it is because these sculptures were only intended to improve his paintings.
The chronology of these sculptures is very difficult to establish and are based mainly on stylistic criteria, his increasingly free technique and his confident analysis of movement. It is believed that his first sculptures were of horses.
The "Halted Horse", of which the Louvre also houses the wax original, is doubtless former to 1881, while the "Cheval marchant au pas relevé" must be related to the pastel work entitled "At the Races" of 1885.
During the period of 1881-1890, Degas multiplied his studies of galloping, jumping, rearing, horses for which split movement photographies realized by the American Muybridge were an important aid.