1810 - 1865
Constant Troyon’s father, who was an employee at the Sèvres porcelain factory, died when he was only seven years old. His mother, who had worked as a plumassière, preparing feathers and plumes for milliners and for interior decoration, was already dead. The orphan was left in the charge of his godfather Riocreux, curator of the Sèvres Manufacture, and it was him – and, later, Poupart – who taught the child the rudiments of drawing and painting on porcelain. At an early age, Troyon was put to work at Sèvres. At the same time, however, he drew and painted for pleasure, producing a series of youthful landscapes. His early work brought him to the notice of Camille Roqueplan, who introduced him to a group of other young painters of talent, including Théodore Rousseau, Paul Huet, Dupré, Diaz, Flers and Cabat. Their common artistic credo, articulated by Flers and Cabat in particular, was unequivocal: ‘It is in Nature and in Nature alone,’ they declaimed, ‘that we must seek both knowledge and inspiration’.
Jules Dupré, took Troyon under his wing and encouraged him to undertake a study voyage to Berry following the Salon of 1833. Troyon left in the company of Jules André on what was to become a voyage of artistic discovery. In 1834 he met and was befriended by Paul Huet, whose influence on the young Troyon would prove decisive. He travelled to the Limousin, Brittany and the region around Orléans and, since he was virtually without any visible means of support, underwrote his travels by painting on porcelain wherever he went. 1847 saw him in Holland and in Belgium, where he studied the work of Paul Potter and enthused over that of Albert Cuyp. In 1847, Troyon was elected to membership of the academy in Amsterdam and in the same year he was awarded Belgium’s Croix de Léopold.
The years from 1848 until his death in 1865, were the most productive and significant period in Troyon’s artistic career. He had made his Salon debut in 1833 with three compositions that were very much in the conventional – and then highly fashionable – mode: View of the Colas House seen from Upstream of the Bridge at Sèvres; View of the Festival of Sèvres as seen from the Manufacture; and View of St-Cloud Gardens. Troyon went on to exhibit regularly from 1835, earning a bronze medal in 1838 and a silver in 1840. With each passing year, his work grew in confidence and stature. The 1841 Salon proved to be a benchmark, when Troyon exhibited his landscape composition entitled Tobias and the Angel, a canvas that was roundly praised by Théophile Gautier.
Troyon exhibited his Bathers in 1842, and a Scenes from the Forest of Fontainebleau in 1844. His work was widely admired but real success continued to elude him until some of his friends suggested that he might wish to incorporate animal figures into his landscapes. He began to do this from 1844 and was awarded a gold medal in 1846 in acknowledgement of a number of compositions, including: Vale of Chevreuse, Woodcutter, Landscape with Poacher, and Under the Trees in the Forest of Fontainebleau. In 1848, he exhibited a Landscape at Fontainebleau and a Sunken Path in Normandy, together with a Landscape near Amsterdam and a Landscape near The Hague. On the strength of these, he was awarded a further gold medal. In 1849, Troyon was elevated to the rank of Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. He went on to exhibit at the Salons of 1850, 1853 and 1855, securing another gold in 1859. A posthumous showing of his work was organised at the Exposition Universelle of 1867.
Troyon painted an astonishing number of compositions, running into several hundred. All his canvases, large and small alike, betray a sense of urgency. Further, after his return from the Low Countries, his work became innovative, featuring as it does remarkably lifelike cattle and horses. Troyon’s work is as ‘clean’ and direct as it is attractive. He was preoccupied with ‘reality’ and verisimilitude. A sense of power infuses and inspires his best work which is characterised by an underlying and sustained tension between technique and subject matter, between ‘realism’ and inspiration. Allied to this is his interest in the vagaries of light and his disciplined approach to colour, which is expressed most effectively in his resonantly dark greens.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Amiens: View from the Garden of St-Cloud; Seascape (study)
Amsterdam (Stedelijk Mus.): Animals in the Storm
Bayonne (Mus. Bonnat): Horse, Bull and Two Cows (studies)
Bordeaux: Oxen Harnessed to the Plough
Boston: Landscape near Dieppe; Landscape with Sheep; Landscape near Paris
Brussels: Rainbow after the Storm
Detroit: At the Trough
Detroit (Institute of Michigan Mus. of Art): Cattle and Sheep (oil on canvas, attributed)
Dijon: Cockerel and Rabbits; Italian Landscape
Edinburgh: Sheep and Shepherd; Pasture in Touraine
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): Return from Work (oil on canvas)
Frankfurt am Main: Cattle at Pasture
Glasgow: Landscape with Cattle; Sheep; Returning from Market; Herd
Hamburg: Cattle and Sheep
Kassel: Village Harvest
La Rochelle (MBA): Woodcutters (1839)
Le Havre: Flock of Sheep near Sézanne; Setting Sun
Le Mans: Farmer and Cart
Leipzig: Grazing Cattle
Lille (MBA): Woodcutter; Landscape in the Forest of Fontainebleau
Limoges: Grape Harvest in Suresnes
London (Wallace Collection): Watering Cattle (early 1850s, oil on canvas); Cattle in Stormy Weather (1857, oil/panel)
Lyons: Cattle at Pasture
Marseilles: Returning Flock
Montpellier: Trough; Cattle in Normandy
Montreal: Villager at the Door of a Thatched Cottage; Moonlight
Moscow (State Tretyakov Gal.): Ox; Dog and Rabbits; Ewes; Beside the Trough
New York (Metropolitan Mus. of Art): White Cow (study); Shepherd with White Ewe; Off to Market (1860); Dutch Cattle
Paris (Mus. d’Orsay): Morning Scene with Oxen at the Plough; Back at the Farm; Shepherd and Flock; Bull; Cattle Drinking; Off to Market; Pasture; Back at the Farm; Gamekeeper; Gamekeeper in the Forest; Return from Market; Oxen Hitched to the Plough; Red Cow; White Cow; Duck Pond; Pasture (two works); Cattle at Rest; White Cow with an Itch; Ford; Watercourse in the Woods; Ford; Cattle at Pasture; Trough; Chicken Feed; Flock of Sheep; Morning; Cattle at the Trough; Small Flock; Ford; Woman with Turkeys; Quarry; Flocks of Sheep Meeting; Heights of Suresnes
Rheims: In the Woods
Rouen: Cattle at the Trough
Sceaux: Château of St-Cloud; Outskirts of Sèvres Village (1834)
The Hague (Mus. Mesdag): Returning from Market; Landscape with Cattle; Haymaking; Afternoon Sun; Cow; Sheep; Autumn Scene
Troyes: Two Figures (study)
Valencia: Château of St-Cloud
Vienna: Chickens Gathering outside a Farmhouse
Vire: Two Landscapes (sketches)
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