Willem Maris is the youngest member of a family of Dutch artists from the second half of the nineteenth century that includes Jacob (born in 1837) and Matthijs (born in 1839). The three Maris brothers are prominent figures in Dutch art at the end of the nineteenth century.
Receiving little formal training, Willem was first and foremost the student of his two brothers. From the age of twelve, he spent most of his leisure time drawing Dutch polder landscapes, which remained his favourite motif throughout his career. Contrary to his brother Matthijs, who settled in London, Willem, despite trips to Norway, Germany, and France, lived most of his life in the Netherlands and, remaining loyal to the Dutch tradition, always privileged the local landscape.
This watercolour, titled Cows Watering, is a typical work by the artist and, in its dedication to naturalism, characteristic of Dutch landscapes from the late nineteenth century. Similar to his lifelong friend and fellow artist Anton Mauve, Willem was skilled at depicting cows at pasture. Here, Willem shows a large cow in a landscape devoid of humans. To the left of the composition is a freely rendered sky, with paper still showing through the thin washes of watercolour.