Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Animaliere Extraordinaire --- Day 13/185

Walk: Errands

Distance: 5 miles

Rosa Bonheur, Two Rabbits, 1840, Musée des Beaux Arts, Bordeaux, France.

If asked to name famous 19th Century French women artists, Ciwt would answer Mary Cassat and Berthe Morisot.  Period.  To her knowledge, these are the only two of great acclaim both in their lifetimes and today.

But, what does Ciwt know?  In fact, as Ciwt just learned, Rosa Bonheur was widely considered the most famous woman artist of the 19th century.  And, though French, her paintings and sculptures were sought after by collectors from all over the world, particularly England.

This makes sense to Ciwt. It is often said the English love their animals above all, and Rosa Bonheur was one of the greatest animalieres, artists of animals, of her time.  Witness the painting of two rabbits above, which was accepted by the all important French Salon jury when she was only 19 years old.  and, because she was a woman and thus unable to be accepted at art schools, arrived at through her own study with guidance from her artist father, Oscar Raymond Bonheur.

Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1852–1855, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, USA.*

Bonheur's attention to animal detail was legendary at the highest levels. For instance, she had always wanted to paint a horse fair. She loved horses and had been studying them for a long time. So when the English Duke of Morny approached her to commission a painting, Bonheur saw this as her opportunity.  She might not have painted many horses before this, but she diligently studied every part of the anatomy of live exemplars at the local fair and showed him sketches of proposed The Horse Fair.  Even so, the Duke was not confident she could render a good result given her lack of experience painting horses and canceled his commission. Nevertheless, Bonheur completed in 1855 and presented it at the Salon where it was widely received.

The Duke regretted his choice once he saw the painting’s international success and heard that Queen Victoria herself admired it. Unfortunately for him, when he tried to rectify his mistake, The Horse Fair had already sold to Cornelius Vanderbilt II who donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1887.

* It is a magnificent 8' x 16' if you have an opportunity to visit it in New York - to google a larger version.

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