Horse-riding was a popular pastime with the bourgeoisie in the Impressionist era. In 1861, Degas stayed at a friend’s villa in Normandy. A stud farm was located nearby, and Degas was captivated by the beauty of the horses he saw there. By making horses a theme of his paintings, Degas was transformed into a painter of modern life – an Impressionist painter.
After Degas exhibited a series of female nudes in pastels at the last Impressionist Exhibition in 1886, the female nude became a theme of his painting for the rest of his life. On the other hand he painted hardly any landscapes, although they were a major genre for the Impressionists. He chose instead to paint scenes to be found in the modern city of Paris, and the natural appearance of people who lived there.