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Oil painting - Highland Scene with Cattle
  • Highland Scene with Cattle
    Bonheur, Auguste-François, born 1824 - died 1884
  • Enlarge image

Highland Scene with Cattle

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1863 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bonheur, Auguste-François, born 1824 - died 1884 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Auguste François Bonheur (1824-1884) was born in Bordeaux where he was trained along with his sister Rosa (1822-1899) by his father Raymond Bonheur (died 1849). He exhibited at the Salon in Paris and at the Royal Academy in London between 1857 and 1874.

This painting is a fine example of Bonheur's oeuvre and of 19th-century Realist paintings which favours the depiction of rural subject matters resulting from the direct observation of nature. This trend emerged in France in the 1840s in the works of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875). The present scene was probably inspired by the scenery around the Scottish lakes Bonheur visited during in the 1860s.

Physical description

Highland scene with cattle walking down the top of a cliff; a lake on the left middle distance and mountains in the background under a sunset light.

Place of Origin

Paris (probably, painted)


1863 (painted)


Bonheur, Auguste-François, born 1824 - died 1884 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Augte Bonheur. 1863
signed and dated right of centre in foreground


Height: 132 cm approx., Width: 201.3 cm approx., Height: 171 cm, Width: 237.2 cm, Depth: 15 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon, 1886

Historical significance: This painting is a fine example of Bonheur's landscape paintings, often enlivened with cattle. The highland depicted here was probably inspired by the Scottish lakes Bonheur visited in the 1860s.
Typical of the Realist movement emerged in the 1840s in France is the interest in rural society and the rendering of light, here the sunset light subtly reflecting on the cows' massive bodies. The subject matter is reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch paintings such as Karel Dujardin's œuvre (c. 1622-1678) but also results from the revived interest in direct observation of nature. It was nevertheless probably also bolstered by his sister's success in this field. Bonheur's refined and detailed brushwork differs somehow from the broad manner developed by the Barbizon painters.
Bonheur specialised in the depiction of cattle set in landscapes and similar works include Le retour de la foire, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux while a similar pastoral scene was sold at Christie's New-York 19 April 2006, lot 204.
Such landscape paintings were particularly fashionable during the 19th century and some pre-Raphaelites painters such as William Holman Hunt also produced similar works, notably Our English Coasts, 1852, in the Tate Britain, London.

Historical context note

19th-century French art is marked by a succession of movements based on a more or less close relationship with nature. At the beginning of the century, Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. This movement was heralded in France by such painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). In its opposition to academic art and its demand for a modern style Realism continued the aims of the Romantics. They assumed that reality could be perceived without distortion or idealization, and sought after a mean to combine the perception of the individual with objectivity. This reaction in French painting against the Grand Manner is well represented by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who wrote a 'Manifesto of Realism', entitled Le Réalisme published in Paris in 1855. These ideas were challenged by the group of the Barbizon painters, who formed a recognizable school from the early 1830s to the 1870s and developed a free, broad and rough technique. They were mainly concerned by landscape painting and the rendering of light. The works of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), Jules Dupré (1811-1889), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Constant Troyon (1810-1865) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) anticipate somehow the plein-air landscapes of the Impressionists.

Descriptive line

Oil painting on canvas, 'Highland Scene with Cattle', Auguste-François Bonheur, 1863

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 12, cat. no. 33.
Shaw Sparrow, W., 'The Dixon Bequest at Bethnal Green' in Magazine of Art, XV, 1892, p. 158, repr.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Mountain; Lake; Landscape; Cattle


Paintings; Scotland


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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