One of the most famous works by the French Impressionist Édouard Manet is the painting “The Races of Longchamp”. It shows a scene at the Longchamp racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne, on the western outskirts of Paris. Horse races were held here from 1857, which were well attended and generally heralded the rise of French horse racing.
Manets was known for his innovative and experimental painting style, with which he turned against the prevailing realism of the French Academy. In this painting, one can see very clearly that he was less concerned with an exact representation of the subject than with capturing the life and movement on the racetrack. He succeeds in this by using quick, almost thrown brushstrokes and vivid, high-contrast colours. As a result, the painting loses some detail, but it better captures the overall mood of the scene and is a wonderful example of the depiction of movement and life on a racecourse.
Although critics were sceptical of the painting when it was published in 1866, it is now considered a masterpiece and one of the most important depictions of French horse racing. It has been exhibited in various museums around the world and is now in the Art Institute of Chicago.