Eugène Verboeckhoven is one of the most renowned animal painters of the 19th century. Born in Warneton on 8 June 1798 into a family of Belgium artists, Verboeckhoven was trained in his father's sculpture studio, together with his younger brother Louis Verboeckhoven. They studied the anatomy of various animals by modelling and drawing them. In 1816 the family moved to Ghent where he studied at the Academy. He was strongly influenced by the work of 17th century Dutch and Flemish animal painters, such as Paulus Potter and Albert Cuyp, whose rural scenes featured domestic animals in a landscape. Subsequently, pastoral settings containing cattle, sheep, goats and other domestic animals were to form the basis of his painting career. Verboeckhoven visited Holland, England and Germany throughout the 1820s, absorbing the techniques of other painters. In 1827 he moved to Brussels and became involved in the struggle for Belgium Independence. He fought in the War of Independence and was appointed the Director of Museums in Brussels in 1831.
The present lot depicts a farmer’s start of a new day, bringing out his animals to graze, set against an Italianesque landscape. In his depiction of animals he achieves to give each of them their own individual character, the coats and furs are elaborately painted, while their shadows and paw prints are visible on the sandy ground. Each detail is carefully composed and finely executed, creating an animal depiction that suggests a composed reality rather than a realistic scene. Verboeckhoven became one of the most famous and successful artists of his day. He exhibited in salons and galleries throughout Europe and his work was widely sought after in both Europe and America. He was awarded the French Legion of Honour, the Belgium Order of Leopold, the Portuguese Order of the Christ and the German Iron Cross.