Constant Troyon

1810 - 1865

Place Born


Place Died



Constant Troyon was the most admired animal painter of the nineteenth-century and the earliest of the Barbizon artists to achieve substantial commercial success. The first half of his career was centered on landscape painting, however, and ultimately it was Troyon’s ability to fit his magnificently drawn animals seamlessly into beautiful, carefully observed landscapes full of light and air that won him international acclaim.

Troyon was born at Sévres, where his father and grandfather were painters at the national porcelain factory; and he received his first instruction in landscape painting from his godfather, the factory director. In his early teens, Troyon drew in the parklands around Sévres, a picturesque area easily accessible to Paris that attracted many of the first generation of naturalistic landscape artists during the 1820s. He supported himself by providing paintings and drawings to the porcelain works and traveled frequently throughout France, working with and learning from other young landscapists such as Louis Cabat, Camille Roqueplan, and Jules Dupré. He first exhibited at the Salon of 1833, sending landscapes of the park at Saint-Cloud and an outdoor fair at Sévres. Troyon copied paintings by Paul Huet and probably met the influential landscapist around this time. Either through Huet or Dupré, he was introduced to the landscapes of John Constable.

From 1838 on, Troyon worked regularly in Brittany and western Normandy, particularly beautiful farming regions that would provide landscape motifs for the artist throughout his life. By 1839 he had visited the Forest of Fontainebleau and in the following decade he established strong friendships with the major Barbizon artists: Narcisse Diaz (like Troyon a former porcelain painter), Jean-François Millet, and Théodore Rousseau. Troyon’s open, light-filled landscapes — often peopled with particularly appealing figures or small animals — began to attract attention and at the Salon of 1846 he was awarded a first-class medal. Troyon spent 1847 in Holland where he was deeply influenced by the great seventeenth-century Dutch masters and particularly the animal painters among them: Cuyp, van de Velde, and Paulus Potter. Animal painting became the central focus of his own art. His large-scale, extremely realistic scenes of oxen ploughing, cattle grazing or sheep herded along country roadways were very favorably received by critics and public alike, winning him an international following. By the mid-1850s he was actively purchasing the paintings of still-struggling friends including Corot and Millet and frequently exhibiting his own paintings in London, Antwerp and Brussels. On an 1859 summer visit to Honfleur on the Normandy coast he began painting marine scenes. Troyon fell ill in 1863, dying early in 1865. The sale of paintings left in his studio was so successful that his mother used the proceeds to establish an award at the école des Beaux-Arts, the Prix Troyon, for young artists specializing in animal-landscape painting.

Alexandra Murphy

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Historical Period: 1810-1870 Romanticism
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