Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899)
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899)

A roe deer in the forest

Details
Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899)
A roe deer in the forest
signed 'Rosa Bonheur' (lower left)
oil on canvas
16½ x 22 in. (42 x 56 cm.)

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Bonheur was born in Bordeaux, Gironde, the oldest child in a family of artists. Her father Oscar-Raymond Bonheur was a landscape and portrait painter and an early adherent of Saint-Simonianism, a Christian-socialist sect that promoted the education of women alongside men. Bonheur's younger siblings included the animal painters Auguste Bonheur and Juliette Bonheur and the animal sculptor Isidore Jules Bonheur. That the Bonheur family was renowned as a family of artists is attested to by the fact that Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, used the Bonheurs as an example of "Hereditary Genius" in his 1869 essay of the same title.

Bonheur was born in Bordeaux (where her father had been friends with Francisco Goya who was living there in exile) but moved to Paris in 1828 at the age of six with her mother and brothers, her father having gone ahead of them to establish a residence and income. By family accounts, she had been an unruly child and had had a difficult time learning to read. To remedy this her mother taught her to read and write by having her select and draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet.
Although she was sent to school like her brothers, she was a disruptive force in the classroom and was consequently expelled from numerous schools. Finally, after trying to apprentice her to a seamstress Raimond agreed to take her education as a painter upon himself. She was twelve at that point and would have been too young to attend the École des Beaux-Arts even if they had accepted women.

She also studied animal anatomy and osteology by visiting the abattoirs of Paris and by performing dissections of animals at the École nationale vétrinaire d'Alfort, the National Veterinary Institute in Paris. There she prepared detailed studies which she would later use as references for her paintings and sculptures.
Her most famous work is The Horse Fair, painted in 1853-1855. The original hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Its subject is the horse market held in Paris on the tree-lined boulevard de l'Hôpital, near the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. It led to international fame and recognition. When she travelled to Scotland, "en route" she met Queen Victoria, who admired her work. She was especially popular in England. In France she was decorated with the Legion d' Honour by the Empress Eugenie and was promoted to officer of the order later. In her era she caused some contoversy by wearing trousers and openly smoking cigarettes, whilst living with her childhood friend Nathalie Micas for over 40 years. She countered the speculation by stating "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....".
;

More from 19th Century European Art Including Orientalist Art

View All
View All