Jan van Essen is the most famous Dutch animal painter from the second half of the nineteenth century. Initially he painted landscapes and cityscapes, but under the influence of the English animal painter J. Swan he also started to focus on animals from 1885. He made many studies of birds and lions in the Amsterdam Artis zoo. He has never lacked appreciation, as his work has been awarded at exhibitions in Amsterdam, Germany, France and Australia. Van Essen learned the painting profession from Johan Conrad Greive (1837 - 1891), painter of river and city views. He also worked for a short time in the studio of the genre painter Hendrik Valkenburg (1826 - 1896). After 1890 he also painted hunting scenes.