"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Texture Tuesday

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Texture "Let Go" by Kim Klassen

I'm so happy to be joining Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday today. It's been a little while since I participated. For lots of great photos and texture eye candy, click here.
Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

History of Women in Art: Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur was a French painter, born in 1822 in Bordeaux, who is considered the most famous woman animal painter in history. Her most famous painting, The Horse Fair, displays the subject of the horse market held in Paris. The painting is quite large and shows the wild, untamed horses and the men who are trying to control them. Bonheur’s interest in painting animals goes back to her childhood when her mother, teaching her to read, had her draw animals representing the letters of the alphabet. Her mother died when she was eleven and she was raised by her father, a painter, involved with the Saint-Simonians who “advocated a form of socialism which expressed a desire for the equality of women and men and abolishment of class distinctions.” ( Because of her father’s beliefs and desire for his daughter to have an education, Bonheur began her education at an all-boys school, where she was considered “unruly”. Later, because women were not allowed into the formal art schools, Bonheur apprenticed with her father, who continued her artistic education by encouraging her to copy paintings by masters at the Louvre and paint directly from nature. Her siblings, as well, were known as animal painters, no doubt because the influence of their father, his encouragement and the idea that he passed down to them that “every living creature has a soul.” Bonheur herself possessed a deep love and respect for animals and continued to study, paint and even surround herself with them later in life.

The Horse Fair, Rosa Bonheur, 1853-1855. The original hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The subject of The Horse Fair, a favorite of Queen Victoria, appealed to British as well as French patrons who became quite fond of domesticated animals as subjects for painting and decoration. It also coincided with the public debate, which showed up regularly in newspapers and discussions in intellectual circles, of animal rights and women’s rights to a certain extent. Chadwick states that the debate was “important for what it reveals about the way that control over the bodies of women and animals was articulated around identifications with nature and culture, sexuality and dominance.” (Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art & Society, p. 195). The issue became “the power, or rather the powerlessness, that middle-class women and working-class men and women experienced in the face of the institutionalized authority of middle- and upper-class men.” (Chadwick: 195) The Woman Question, as the debate came to be known, included such issues as reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, property rights, legal rights, medical rights, women’s suffrage and marriage, and clearly shows up in Bonheur’s paintings. It was considered inappropriate for women to paint scenes such as Bonheur painted. Marie-√Člisabeth Boulanger Cav√© writes in Drawing from Memory (1868), “Woman must confine herself to those subjects which are allied to her sphere… children, animals, fruit, flowers, etc. But when a woman desires to paint large-sized pictures, she is...lost.” (

Plowing in the Nivernais, Rosa Bonheur, 1850
Rosa Bonheur was an incredibly talented painter, however, it was her manner of dress and behavior that  has drawn the most attention to her ideology. Her wild horses claim a fierce independence and claim to life which Bonheur herself clearly possessed. She wrote, “To [my father’s] doctrines I owe my great and glorious ambition for the sex to which I proudly belong and whose independence I shall defend until my dying day.” Indeed, it is highly unlikely that she would have become the prolific painter she did without his support. Bonheur has been defined as having a defiant personality, dressing like a man, cutting her hair short, smoking cigarettes and cigars, which “placed her in a decisive position in early feminism.” ( Art historian James Saslow is said to suggest “that Bonheur’s use of masculine dress was part of an attempt to claim male prerogatives and create an androgynous and proto-lesbian visual identity.” However, when questioned about her manner of dress, she herself said, "I was forced to recognize that the clothing of my sex was a constant bother. That is why I decided to solicit the authorization to wear men's clothing from the prefect of police. But the suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else. The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me...."

Other links:
The Art History Archive
National Museum of Wildlife Art
National Museum of Women in the Arts