The present proof impression is printed on an unusually large sheet of wove paper displaying the entire subject and, except for in places at the upper edge at the left and at the left edge towards the top, all the edges of the stones. The published edition was printed on a much smaller sheet which results in the loss of the edge of the subject.
This lithograph itself also differs in several aspects from the published edition. Whilst the black stone remains the same (but generally prints slightly more richly in the proof impression) the colour stones display differences from the later printing both in colour, contour, and general re-working.
Green Stone: is here a much lighter lime colour and is before more extensive spatter-work.
Brown Stone: shows additional fine lines on the right hand flank of the horse, and a stray stroke to the left of the tail not present in the later edition.
Grey-beige stone: before strengthening to the foreground jockey's trousers; the present impression has a very fluid and semi-transparent contour at the upper left as well as other lighter areas; this is later re-worked to form a much flatter-looking colour plane.
Red stone: The jacket of the left-hand jockey is made-up of much broader and stronger splatter-work; the right contour of his cap is curved; in the published edition the right side of the cap has a straight, vertical edge.
Blue stone: the present impression is printed in a more grey-blue colour than the later edition; it is also before further strengthening.
In all of these aspects, except for the colour of the sky, this impression closely resembles the proof in the Gerstenberg collection (Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec, The Complete Graphic Works, London, 1988, p.399, illustrated).
Wittrock and Adriani record only four proofs, in the Gerstenberg collection, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, and a handcoloured impression (Toulouse-Lautrec Lithographs, The Collection of Ludwig and Erik Charell, Sotheby's, 27 April 1978, lot 136). The present proof is unrecorded.
Le Jockey is one of the last great lithographs to be made by the artist, arising from a new burst of artistic activity following the alcohol-induced nervous illness which led to his hospitalization in February 1899. During his convalescence the publisher Pierrefort, accompanied by his printer Henri Stern, visited the artist in the clinic at Neuilly and suggested that he make a series of lithographs devoted to horse racing to be published in an album entitled Les Courses. Only four lithographs were completed (Adriani 345-348), of which only Le Jockey was published in an edition.
The distant windmill of Le Jockey identifies the setting as the racing course at Longchamps, in the Bois de Boulogne. The dynamism of the print is achieved through the daring foreshortening of the foreground horse and dramatic use of perspective, devices indebted to the work of Degas and Manet. Just as Manet had used a radical perspective of horses racing toward the spectator in his lithograph Les Courses (Harris 41), the horses in Le Jockey lunge down the track at a steep diagonal.
The boldness of the composition is further heightened by the low horizon and abrupt cropping of the horses at the left viewed from an elevated position (a device derived from Japanese prints), creating the illusion that they are actually suspended from the ground. A strong sense of surface design is achieved by the echoing shapes of the horses and jockeys, taking up most of the picture space and standing out powerfully against the light green expanse of the background.
The compelling power of design and supreme qualities of draughtsmanship in Le Jockey combine in one of the artist's greatest lithographic masterpieces.