Eugene Verboeckhoven, “Sheep in the Barn,” 1876, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 38 3/4 inches

In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week we highlight a painting that emanates a soothing light within a 19th century barn. Who painted it?

“Sheep in the Barn” is a fantastic 19th-century painting deeply rooted in tradition and executed with detail and anatomical precision. In fact, that’s what its creator, Eugene Verboeckhoven, was known for. Born in 1798, Verboeckhoven was a Belgian painter, but throughout his career he experimented with sculpture and printmaking.

Verboeckhoven’s training as an artist began early under his father, Barthelemy, who was a sculptor. A frequent participant in the Ghent and Brussels Salons, the younger Verboeckhoven is specifically known as a master painter of animals and, along with several of his pupils, appears to have been one of the last links to a secular tradition with its roots deep in the 17th century, which linked observation of nature, studied composition, and idealized reproduction of reality.

Eugene Verboeckhoven, “Sheep in the Barn (detail),” 1876, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 38 3/4 inches
Eugene Verboeckhoven, “Sheep in the Barn (detail),” 1876, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 38 3/4 inches

Verboeckhoven was a perfectionist, as evidenced in his works such as “Sheep in the Barn.” Scholars marvel at how prolific he was — leaving behind hundreds of sketches and studies that he used to assemble his compositions like a stage director. In some cases, other artists employed Verboeckhoven to enrich their works with some of his animals and figures. Indeed, many attribute Verboeckhoven’s talent to his drawing, which was apparently unrivaled.

“Sheep in the Barn” was executed in 1876 and is available via DF Art, Inc. in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada on August 29. Online bidding is also accepted via LiveAuctioneers. The viewer is presented with a tightly cropped, soft arrangement of sheep at center, who casually graze while bathed in a golden, warm light. Scattered around them are other creatures, including a rabbit, two lambs, and three chickens. Each of these animals has been meticulously rendered, each carefully studied and imbued with character.

Auction estimates are between $23,000 and $25,000. To learn more, visit here.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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