Shortly after the artist’s death in 1881, Eugene Verboeckhoven’s por¬trayals of animals were character¬ized as “so well known in America as well as Europe that they need no description or praise.” The artist’s carefully delineated depictions of domestic and farm animals earned him lavish praise throughout the mid-nineteenth century until around 1860, when a more specific mode of realism came into fashion. Never one to stray from his convic¬tions, Verboeckhoven continued to produce ideal¬ized pastoral and barnyard scenes until his death.
Born into a family of Belgium artists, Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven was trained in his father’s sculpture studio. As a boy he learnt drawing and clay modelling alongside his younger brother, Charles Louis Verboeckhoven. They studied the anatomy of various animals by modelling and drawing them.
The soft vanilla and grey tones of the clouds in the current painting are a contrast to the soft greens and earth tones of the land. The brown cow dominates the foreground and guide’s the eye to the sleeping sheep, and together they seem to merge with the composition of the clouds in the sky. The elongated shadows in the front and clay-colored wide idyllic landscape in the background correspond with his style of painting from the 1940’s. The warm lighting, seemingly coming from behind and not only from the side, clearly shows an influence by the style of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine. He studied the two masters closely when he worked with landscape and animal painter Balthasar Paul Ommeganck after finishing his training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent in 1818. He was also influenced by the work of 17th century Dutch and Flemish animal painters, 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.
When Verboeckhoven painted this landscape, in 1848, he had travelled throughout Europe and in 1845, on his return to Brussels, he started teaching at the Academy. During this time he added portraiture to his work.
Besides being a formidable artist, Verboeckhoven’s reputation appears to have revolved at least partially around his active role in the Belgian Revolution of 1830. Declaring independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, Belgians took pride in their unique national identity in both culture and art throughout the mid-century, and Verboeckhoven was among their early heroes.
– Sale: Glerum The Hague, 12 Nov 1996, no. 9;
– Private collection, The Netherlands.
Literature about the artist
– H. de Vilder, K. Van de Ven, Eugene-Joseph Verboeckhoven en zijn medeschilders, Vilvoorde 2006.