Figure with Cattle conveys the sense of bleakness associated with the task of keeping livestock in check. The lack of clearly defined facial features lends the figure an air of impersonality that reflects the moribund nature of the task, while the landscape is stark. This subject was one that provided Millet with a source for a number of other drawings, etchings, and oils. There is no evidence that this particular drawing was a preparatory sketch for a particular oil painting, but it is very similar in composition to his etching of 1855, Woman with Two Cows.
It is unclear exactly how direct a political comment Millet intended these various representations to be, but Figure with Cattle, seen within its context, provides us with an insight into the hardships of peasant life in nineteenth-century France.