Thursday, 29 July 2010

Rosa Bonheur

In the Walker Art Gallery there is currently an exhibition of art by women artists. Among them is a painting by Rosa Bonheur. (Because photography is not allowed in the special exhibitions I am unablke to show it but hopefully these other excamples of her work will show you what a marvellous artist she was..)

Rosa Bonheur, née Marie-Rosalie Bonheur, was born in Bordeaux on March 16, 1822, the oldest child in a family of artists. She died on May 25, 1899. Bonheur was a French animalière, realist artist, and sculptor. As a painter she became famous primarily for two chief works. The first was Ploughing in the Nivernais (in French Le labourage nivernais, le sombrage ), which was first exhibited at the Salon of 1848, and is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. it depicts a team of oxen ploughing a field while attended by peasants set against a vast pastoral landscape. The second major work was The Horse Fair (in French Le marché aux chevaux), which was exhibited at the Salon of 1853 (finished in 1855) and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. Bonheur is widely considered to have been the most famous and arguably the best female painter of the nineteenth century.

"She is perhaps most famous today because she was known for wearing men's clothing and living with women. Her work and artistic talent has now become somewhat secondary in importance to her manner of dress, her choice of companions and her penchant for smoking cigarettes." (Wikipedia) It'sd a sad commentary on modern life that someone's lifestyle should cause greater comment than the wonderful art she created.

To my mind she surpasses the vast majority of modern day animal painters. “Her command of anatomy and the texture of fur has yet to be surpassed. She also painted with a dignity and elegance that places her far above the usual animal illustrators of today.” (Stapleton Kearns)


  1. very nice - I enjoyed the art and the history.

  2. My favorite is the dog art! I think it reminds me soo much of my dog, when she knows she is in trouble as soon as I walk in she has that look.

  3. Bonheur was a favourite of my mother's too. Her animals are unsurpassed -- seem ready to leap or walk off the canvas. Thanks for a most illuminating post.
    Canadian Chickadee

  4. A superb reminder, CJ, and a good lesson for me.

  5. I've just visited her studio here in France next PARIS, and I have to say that she is not at all know in France !!
    Thank you


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