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

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.