Les Courses is one of the key prints to any study of nineteeth century printmaking in France. It possesses a striking modernity both in its extraordinary composition of the draftsmanship and in the technical bravado which the artist adapted to the medium of lithography.
It seems likely that the lithograph, rather than being after another image, was used by Manet as a stage in the development of the composition. The oil painting to which it is presumed to be closest was destroyed by Manet in 1865. A watercolor, now at the Fogg, was made after this composition and the production of the lithograph was then followed by the oil now in Chicago. In this oil a closer view of the horses is given, increasing the dynamic elements of the composition.
The oblong format of the painting was followed in the selection of the Chine for the First Edition. It is not recorded how many lifetime impressions were pulled, but despite Clot's assertions to the contrary, it seems unlikely that the stone remained unprinted until 1884. In these first state impressions the stone was not fully inked up. The second state presents the full composition as presumably intended by the artist.