Rosa Bonheur was a realist-styled French artist who primarily painted animals but also sculpted them. Ploughing in the Nivernais (in French: Le marché aux chevaux), which was first exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1848 and is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and The Horse Fair (in French: Le marché aux chevaux), which was exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1853 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Bonheur was largely regarded as the nineteenth century’s most famous female painter.
Career and Success
Ploughing in the Nivernais, displayed in 1849 and now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, was Bonheur’s first significant triumph, thanks to a French government commission. Her most famous piece, the eight-foot-high by sixteen-foot-wide The Horse Fair, was completed in 1855. It depicts a horse market in Paris, on the tree-lined boulevard de l’Hôpital, near the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, which may be seen in the background of the artwork. In London’s National Gallery, there is a scaled-down version. This piece earned her international acclaim, and she flew to Scotland the same year to meet Queen Victoria, who appreciated Bonheur’s art.
Ernest Gambart, an art dealer, was Bonheur’s agent. In 1855, he brought Bonheur to the United Kingdom and bought the rights to reproduce her paintings. Many of Bonheur’s engravings were based on reproductions by Charles George Lewis, one of the finest engravers of the day.
Her prosperity allowed her to relocate to the Château de By near Fontainebleau, not far from Paris, in 1859, where she remained for the rest of her life. The house has been turned into a museum dedicated to her.
Her fight against gender norms
Bonheur defied gender norms by opting for slacks, shirts, and ties in her paintings and posed images, but not in her painted portraits. She didn’t do it because she wanted to be a man, but she did refer to herself as a grandson or brother when discussing her family; instead, she associated with the power and independence that men had. Bonheur found a sense of identity in wearing men’s clothing since it allowed her to openly display her refusal to comply to society’s gender binary.