by Joan M. Rehlin
A mini art history post in celebration of Women's History Month 2019...
Rosa (née Marie-Rosalie) Bonheur is considered the most famous female painter of the 19th century. During a time when it was difficult for women to receive an art education, Bonheur’s success opened doors for younger women artists. Bonheur (3/16/1822–5/25/1899) identified with the power and freedom reserved at that time for men, and as a result, she broke various boundaries which paved the way for other women. As an animalière (painter of animals), Bonheur gained international recognition during her lifetime and was best known for her artistic realism.
Bonheur was born into a family of artists in Bordeaux, France, and moved to Paris in 1828. Unusual for that time, her parents believed in the equal education of women alongside men. As a child, Boneur had difficulty learning to read and write, and was taught by her mother to sketch a different creature for each letter of the alphabet. This led to Bonheur’s love of drawing animals, and she was encouraged by her father — a landscape and portrait painter — to paint alongside him in his studio where he brought live animals for her to study. She then furthered her training in animal anatomy at the National Veterinary Institute in Paris.
Among Bonheur’s many credits are receiving a painting commission from the French government; having paintings in prominent exhibitions including the Paris Salon of 1848; being decorated with the French Legion of Honour by Empress Eugénie in 1865; and being promoted to Officer of the Order in 1894, the first female artist to receive this award. Nonetheless, Bonheur became more popular in England than her native France after she met Queen Victoria who admired her work.
In addition, Bonheur exhibited globally, including at the Palace of Fine Arts and The Woman's Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL. Currently, Bonheur’s paintings are in New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the collections of other important institutions worldwide.
The Monarch of the Herd / Le Monarque de la Meute, oil on canvas, 1868, Rosa Bonheur
Welcome to our Art Blog where we occasionally present topics of interest in the fine art world, including featuring artists other than Jim Rehlin. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces we find worthwhile to share with you. If you like any of these, consider sharing the posts forward to your own blogs and other social media.