Most of Mauve's work depicts people and animals in outdoor settings. In his Morning Ride in the Rijksmuseum, for example, fashionable equestrians at the seacoast are seen riding away from the viewer. An unconventional detail, horse droppings in the foreground, attests his commitment to realism.
His best known paintings depict peasants working in the fields. His paintings of flocks of sheep were especially popular with American patrons, so popular indeed that a price differential developed between scenes of "sheep coming" and "sheep going".
Anton Mauve was born on 18 September 1838 in Zaandam, a town in the Dutch province of North Holland. A year after his birth, his father Willem Carel Mauve, a Mennonite chaplain, was sent to Haarlem, the capital city of the province where Mauve grew up.
He was apprenticed to the painter Pieter Frederik van Os followed by Wouter Verschuur. In his further development he worked with Paul Gabriël, painting from nature, and they regularly stayed and worked together at Oosterbeek, the 'Dutch Barbizon'. He was a friend of Jozef Israëls and Willem Maris and, encouraged by their example, he abandoned his early highly finished manner for a freer, looser method of painting, and the brilliant palette of his youthful work for a tender lyric harmony which is generally restricted to delicate greys, greens, and light blue.
In 1872 Mauve settled in The Hague where he became a leading member of the Hague School of painters and one of the founders of the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij in 1876, as well as playing a leading role in the development of the Pulchri Studio, The Hague's most influential art society at the time.