Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven - Sheep
Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven (1798-1881), Belgian
OIL ON PANEL, 16 x 19 inches
Gift of Horace Fairbanks
Shortly after the artist's death in 1881, Eugene Verboeckhoven's portrayals of animals were characterized 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 convictions (he systematically employed the triangle of three dots after his signature to identify himself as a Freemason), Verboeckhoven continued to produce idealized pastoral and barnyard scenes until his death. By 1875, when the Athenaeum's painting was completed, the artist had become a venerated elder statesman among his peers.
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 (like Americans of that same era) took pride in their unique national identity in both culture and art throughout the mid-century, and Verboeckhoven was among their early heroes.