About this artwork

Troyon’s atmospheric use of light is evocative of the early evening in summer. The long shadows cast by the animals and figures show that the sun is low in the sky. Two men approach each other, one accompanied by his black dog, the other by two oxen which he is driving home after a day’s ploughing. The oxen have been turning over the fields in preparation for the sowing of next year’s crop. The light reflecting on the track-worn path and the shadows indicating the time of day are reminiscent of paintings by Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan van Kessel, which Troyon could have seen during his visit to Holland in 1847.

Constant Troyon

Constant Troyon

While training to become a ceramic painter in his native Sèvres, Troyon spent his spare time studying landscape painting. He particularly admired the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael. In the early 1830s, Troyon formed friendships with artists Théodore Rousseau and Jules Dupré, who proved to be very influential. Throughout the 1840s they worked together at Barbizon in the forest of Fontainebleau, aiming for greater naturalism in their painting. In 1847, Troyon visited Holland, where he was struck by the animal paintings of Paulus Potter and Aelbert Cuyp. This visit marked a shift in his work, and thereafter animals became his central interest. Troyon became one of Europe's most prominent artists, and his late paintings of the Normandy coast influenced the Impressionists.