Who is Rosa Bonheur, whose bicentenary we are celebrating?

On March 16, 1822, Rosa Bonheur was born. A powerful artist, pioneer of feminism, amateur, and specialist in the representation of animals, and whose independence will pave the way for many women in the world of painting. Rocked by painting from her earliest childhood, Rosa Bonheur was encouraged by her family to pursue her art, particularly her father. He was a painter of portraits and landscapes and a friend of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya . Although her name has sometimes been forgotten in recent years, Rosa Bonheur was, during her lifetime, one of the major artists of her century. She was acclaimed particularly for the strength and realism of her paintings representing animals. Rosa Bonheur has reached a large international audience, notably through a vast fresco entitled Le Marché aux chevaux. Presented at the Salon of 1853, marked by the critical divergences between romantics and classics, the work was then unanimous. An American collector will acquire the painting, which is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Rosa Bonheur, first female officer of the Legion of Honor Ten years later, Rosa Bonheur becomes the first woman to obtain the rank of officer of the Legion of Honor. To give her the distinction, Empress Eugenie had made the trip to By, in the castle of Rosa Bonheur, in Seine-et-Marne. The painter had a large studio built there and many facilities to accommodate her animals. Independent throughout her life, Rosa Bonheur has consistently refused to marry, notably marked by the memory of her father's behavior towards her mother. She felt she would be deprived, at least in part, of her art by marrying someone. If her homosexuality is not proven, Rosa Bonheur nevertheless shared most of her life with Nathalie Micas, a painter she met as a teenager. Both were used to wearing pants, although it was necessary to request cross-dressing permission from the prefecture every six months. In May 1899, Rosa Bonheur died at the Château de By. She rests in the Père-Lachaise cemetery alongside Nathalie Micas. A retrospective in Bordeaux and Paris In 2022, France is preparing to celebrate the bicentenary of Rosa Bonheur and to give her the deserved recognition. Our colleagues from Figaro interviewed the current owner of the Château de By, who is delighted. "Since the 1950s, we had forgotten her, this artist specializing in the representation of animals, she says. When I acquired her property five years ago, I didn't know much about her. I have since learned that in the 19th century, she had been a star, the most famous and best-selling painter of her time, both in France, England, and the United States. Her monumental painting Horse Market is on permanent display at the Met in New York, and her Nivernais Plowing at the Musée d'Orsay. » The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux is organizing a retrospective dedicated to Rosa Bonheur from May 18 to September 18, before the exhibition stops at the Musée d'Orsay from October 17, 2022 to January 15, 2023.
Seen in Le Point.

Who is Rosa Bonheur, whose bicentenary we are celebrating?

On March 16, 1822, Rosa Bonheur was born. A powerful artist, pioneer of feminism, amateur, and specialist in the representation of...