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Video transcript

it's often the case that when you're traveling with a baby it demands a lot of attention and that's what's happening in this small painting by Degas called at the races in the countryside and that infant is clearly the center of this family's attention and their dog's attention too yes it's true in fact it only looks like the horses are perhaps not paying attention so it's such an interesting composition it's big ah at his most playful we see a painting that seems as if it is uncut that's what they got so good at is making his paintings which are so carefully composed seem as though it's a scene that he just happened to come upon and I think we're used to this because of photography but in the 19th century this would have been pretty outrageous I mean look at the way he's cropped the wagon wheels he's cropped the horses they don't have the bottom of their legs and then he gets even more playful not only as a family group sort of pushed a little bit too far to the right but then there's this very large spatial gap as we move into the middle ground where the figures are really small I'm particularly fond of the way that little horse seems to just be standing on the back of the carriage or there's another tiny figure that seems to be perched on the back of the brown horse in the foreground these are the incongruity is that the Academy would of course have never allowed but that Degas seems to really relish in an academic painting we expect things to make sense we expect all the forms to be included whole within the frame of the painting we expect to be able to read a recession into space so that for example those figures that look so small would make sense and we would understand the distance between the foreground and the background but here de gAHS painted it flat green expands that we can't really read as depth of course the most interesting part of this painting for me is contained within the carriage itself it's the family and their interaction it's really very sweet there is all of that attention on the infant and whether it's gonna eat and whether it's going to stop being fussy historically upper-class women often de nurse their own children I would hire women who were known as wet nurses who would nurse infants it's a very intimate kind of nanny I think you could say you think so and actually you can see her breast is exposed and all of the figures are looking down at the child so issues of class are very much built into this painting an upper-class woman would certainly not reveal herself in this way the wet nurse is in a sense an accoutrement of the life of the upper-class and very much the way that little black boxer is as well that little dog the dog and the family that it belongs to appear very aristocratic to me the dog appears like a very specific breed and the sitting kind of upright and the man has a top hat on this clearly very well dress his wife is very well dressed and that does contrast with the informality of the working class wet nurse that we see and of course we're in an environment which is about horse racing this is at a time when horse racing was an extremely privileged sport so we are in this very genteel and very fashionable environment yet we have this moment of informality within that we have a scene of modern upper-class leisure and this is a very typical impression subjected it's an entirely new subject and it's really the beginnings of what we consider modern art a kind of embracing of a real urban world of Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century