Eerelman (Groningen 1839-1926 Groningen) was interested in drawing and animals from a young age. His parents were of humble origin, and the young Otto, a child with weak health, received mostly home education. At the age of 15, he already received drawing lessons for children at Minerva. After high school, he began a notary training but, at the age of 21, decided to attend the Minerva art academy. He then went to Antwerp and apprenticed under Lourens Alma Tadema.
His classical paintings, with subjects such as costumes and interiors, earned him enough money to eventually establish himself as an independent painter. He painted his first dog portrait earlier (around 1872), but from the 1880s, his focus shifted to portraying animals. This brought Otto Eerelman much success. He was particularly appreciated for the lifelike manner in which he depicted dogs and horses. The anatomy of the animals was vivid and realistic, and the rendering of fur was masterful.
After a detour through Paris and Brussels again, he settled in The Hague with his wife. He became friends with the painters Jozef Israëls and Hendrik Willem Mesdag, with whom he played an important role in the Kunstlievend Genootschap (which was renamed Pictura in 1838). He received commissions from the Royal House. An impressive work is that of Queen Wilhelmina on horseback on the Renkumse heath. This work still hangs at 't Loo. The last commission Eerelman received from the Oranges was to capture tax hound Helga - Prince Hendrik's dog - and her puppies.
The artist had a dog kennel at home where he could observe his models closely. He painted mainly larger breeds like the Mastiff, Borzoi, and St. Bernard, as well as purebred horses. In the Netherlands, Henriette Ronner-Knip was the first to introduce the dog as an independent subject. The newly rich wanted to show off these dogs to demonstrate their wealth, and Erelman benefited from this trend.
In 1907, he returned to Groningen as a celebrated artist and quickly gained the nickname 'Northern Rembrandt.' A street is named after him, and in the city hall of Groningen, the life-sized painting 'The horse inspection on the Grote Markt on August 28' hangs. It is a tribute to the city commissioned by the municipal government to commemorate the relief of the city on August 28, 1672.
In 1914, Eerelman's work was featured at the Biennale, a biennial exhibition of contemporary visual art, despite 'Eerelman not being an innovator and having nothing to do with expressionism at all.' Eerelman continued to paint until he passed away at the age of 86 in 1926; fittingly, his last painting featured St. Bernard puppies as the subject.
Arreslee Gronings Museum-RKD