A shepherd and his flock are depicted in a marshy landscape typical of the Landes in south-west France. A single black sheep at the front of the flock attracts our attention, drawing our gaze to the shepherd behind, whose cape and hat match their creamy fleeces. He stands out against the diffuse, bright grey sky, the only vertical in a flat expanse. The grass, emerald green in the foreground, appears silvery in the background, as dew glistens in the hazy sunlight. The grazing is bordered by a row of grey-green trees and other vegetation in the middle distance, while a line of deep grey-blue suggests higher ground beyond. Chaigneau trained first in his native city, Bordeaux, before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1847. A versatile artist, in 1854 he won third prize in the coveted Prix de Rome for Paysage historique (in which success depended on producing an idealised landscape according to stringent theoretical conventions) with his version of Lycidas et Méris (églogue de Virgile), before turning to the naturalistic landscape painting for which he is best known. He moved to Barbizon in 1858 and his work is closely associated with that eponymous group of painters, especially with that of Charles Jacque (1813-1894), another animalier, who found equal fame for his painting of sheep. Chaigneau's work is characterised by banal subject matter combined with a powerful pastoralism.
unframed: 27.1cm x 21.8cm
framed: 44.1cm x 39.3cm
Place of creation
Mr James Thomas Blair bequest, 1917.
© Manchester Art Gallery