Constant Troyon is best known for his paintings of animals, of which the present pair of pictures is a fine example. He was closely associated with the artists of the Barbizon school, although his success lay in his widely admired pictures of animals rather than landscapes.
Troyon spent his childhood at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, where his parents worked as decorators of porcelain. His training in porcelain painting appears to be the only formal training he received, but Troyon's reputation as an artist was firmly established by the mid-nineteenth century. He had received five medals at the Paris Salon, and in 1855 he was invited to be a judge at the World Exhibition. Emperor Napoleon III was one of his patrons.
It was during this decade that Troyon made the first of many visits to his friend Loisel, who ran a kennel in Touraine. The hounds of the kennel were to become a recurring subject in his painting. Both in technique and in treatment of the subject matter, these pictures represent Troyon's break with the romanticism of the tradition of French animal pictures established in the eighteenth century by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755).
Contemporary critics noted the technique with which Troyon applied paint as 'touches séparées', thickly applied touches of paint that he did not blend together. This technique was later admired by Impressionist painters such as Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet.
Most significantly, as evidenced in the present pictures, Troyon's hounds were painted in the spirit of Barbizon realism. The first picture shows a gangly young hound tethered to an older hound for training. The older hound looks into the distance with an alert eye, whilst the young hound is distracted by other sights and scents. In the second picture, the hound in the foreground pauses to scratch his shoulder.