Alfred Boucher studied under Paul Dubois, entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1869, and started exhibiting in the Salon of 1874. In the 1890s, Boucher became more interested in Realism and the subject of the worker, a vocation which inspired his fellow sculptors Jules Dalou and Constantin Meunier. Fulfilling an exemplary career, Boucher also helped younger artists by making models available and providing low rent artist studios in La Rotonde des Vins. Alexander Archipenko, Ossip Zadkine and Jacques Lipchitz, among others, were all recipients of Boucher's generosity, as was Camille Claudel, whom Boucher introduced to Rodin.
The plaster version of Au But, otherwise known as Les Coureurs, was exhibited at the Salon of 1886 and won a first class medal. Many critics commended the sculptor's talent and Paul Leroi wrote of the piece in L'Art, "a plaster group with an extreme vigour, an admirable intensity of life, the greatest movement, and a rare suppleness of modelling, in short, one of the masterpieces which honours French art." The state awarded Boucher the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and commissioned a life-size bronze version of Au But. The finished cast was exhibited at the Salon in 1887 (no. 3675), before being placed in the Luxembourg Gardens, where it remained until, sadly, being destroyed during the Nazi occupation. Such was the popularity of this work, it was edited in many different sizes, and by numerous foundries, including Barbedienne, Susse and Siot-Decauville. The type of numbering stamped on the present example would suggest that it is a cast by the latter foundry.