Urgent Museum Notice

Sheep by the Sea

Close up of Sheep by the Sea

A flock of sheep rest on a green hill by the sea. In the center, two adults and a lamb lie in a group. Flat rocks are visible through the grass. The sky has rolling clouds, and a breeze is suggested by the waves crashing on rocks in the sea, which stretches to the horizon.

Rosa Bonheur, Sheep by the Sea, 1865; Oil on cradled panel, 12 3/4 x 18 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Sheep by the Sea
Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur created Sheep by the Sea following a trip through the Scottish Highlands in the summer of 1855. In painting this complacent flock of sheep settled in a meadow near a body of water, Bonheur captured a placid moment. Sheep by the Sea demonstrates the artist’s commitment to direct observation from nature. The thickly applied paint provides texture that conveys the lushness of a verdant landscape at water’s edge. The informality of this rustic scene belies the detailed physiognomic studies of animals that Bonheur frequently sketched before executing a work in oil paint.

Although the Empress Eugénie of France commissioned Sheep by the Sea, Bonheur exhibited the painting at the Salon of 1867 before it entered her collection. The empress (like her contemporary, Queen Victoria) also patronized the renowned British artist Sir Edwin Landseer, whose sentimental paintings of domestic animals became popular among the upper classes in England and France. Yet, unlike Landseer’s animals, which play out human dramas, Bonheur’s animals appear within their natural habitats, not subjected to human laws and emotions.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Rosa Bonheur
  • Title

    Sheep by the Sea
  • Date

    1865
  • Medium

    Oil on panel
  • Dimensions

    12 3/4 x 18 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • On Display

    Yes