Rosa Bonheur: An Artist Who Was Ahead Of Her Time

Art needs sacrifice, and everyone cant be an artist. But, some of them prove that it comes only with passion. Rosa Bonheur, or Marie-Rosalie Bonheur (1822–1899), was a successful French painting artist. She is primarily known for her animal paintings when few women could pursue artistic careers.

Who Was Rosa Bonheur?

Rosa Bonheur was born in Bordeaux, France, on March 16, 1822. She moves to Paris at the age of six with her mother and siblings. Rosa Bonheur’s siblings were also painters. An artistic career was destined for Bonheur. Her father was a professional painter specializing in realistic portraits and landscapes. He also encouraged his daughter’s artistic pursuits by teaching her how to draw early.   

Raymond Bonheur moved his family to Paris in 1829 and established a studio that served as the family home. She joined the Saint-Simon Movement, a religious organization that campaigned for women’s equality in 1830, and lived apart from her family until 1832.

Bonheur’s mother, Sophie, died shortly after her father’s return. Her father left the family to live without his income. Her mother’s death dramatically changed Bonheur’s outlook, as her father is now forced to enroll her in a business school designed to teach young women marketable skills such as sewing.

She painted a commissioned portrait of a wealthy young woman named Natalie Mikas. Rosa and Mikas struck up a friendship during portrait sessions that would last a lifetime.  

Bonheur’s work had advanced so much that she was ready for her first public exhibition by the time she was a teenager. Bonheur submitted several paintings and small sculptures at the Paris Salon of 1841 for inclusion in prestigious art exhibitions. Critics and the public have well received his work.

Bonheur’s father died in 1849, leaving her alone, which led to tremendous personal and professional growth. Unlike many artists, Bonheur’s commercial success and public recognition were secured early in her career. However, her habits are contradictory. 

Rosa Bonheur’ Personal Life:

Her desire to better understand animal physiology leads her to visit slaughterhouses in Paris, where women are not allowed. Bonheur cut her hair very short and dressed in men’s clothes to circumvent this prohibition, which quickly became her usual style. Eventually, Bonheur received official permission from Paris to work and travel in men’s clothing within the city. She also developed the traditional male habit of smoking cigars.  

Although she is never married, Bonheur’s friendship with Mikas continues to grow, and the two women lived together. Bonheur’s habits have aroused public curiosity. Likewise, Bonheur never discussed her sexual preferences, and given the prevailing customs at the time, no such questions were raised. She made it to the list of reference books for some contemporary gay and lesbian historical figures, although the true nature of her relationship with Mikas was never made clear.   

Rosa’s Success:

She became the first woman to receive the French Legion of Honor in 1865. However, the award could only be given to her when Emperor Louis Napoleon was not in town because he opposed this award to a woman. She later received a cockade denoting the second Legion of Honor. She was proud of this award, wearing her medals prominently when she posed for a portrait of Anna Klumpke in 1899. Bonheur continued to achieve artistic success until her death. 

One of her most famous works portrayed American celebrity Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West show visited France in 1889. Bonheur enjoyed painting the wildlife and the show’s cast, which featured real western cowboys, Mexicans, and local vaquero-Americans.   

In many ways, Bonheur represented the embodiment of the realist school that dominated European painting in the mid-19th century. He did not use the more modern methods of Impressionism, although he must have been aware of their efforts. In fact, despite the Impressionists’ efforts to get their work into the Salon in the 1870s, Bonheur’s most iconic works continued to be a huge success.

Why Did Rosa Bonheur Create The Horse Fair?

One of Rosa Bonheur’s greatest paintings is The Horse Fair. it shows the horse market in Paris. She started this painting in 1852 and finished it in 1855. Rosa used to visit this horse market twice a week. She was an established and well-famed animal painter when she started to draw this painting. However, this painting got enough appraisals from all over the world. This painting was massive in size and very attractive in person.

Frequently Asked Questions  

Why is Rosa Bonheur famous?

 Rosa Bonheur was ahead of her time. She lived independently for her whole life. She was an open Lesbian at that point in time and proudly lived her whole life with another woman.

Did Rosa Bonheur get married to someone?

No, she didn’t marry anyone in her whole life. According to her, she never had the time to consider this matter.

What is the name of Rosa bonheur’s art style?

Rosa bonheur was a french painter and sculptor. Her art form is called Realism.

How much does a Rosa Bonheur painting cost?

 Rosa Bonheur’s paintings are staired at auctions many times. Generally, her paintings cost from 20 USD to 650,000 USD.

What was Rosa Bonheur’s cause of death?

Rosa bonheur dies of pulmonary influenza at the age of 77 in 1899.

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