Home News Who was Rosa Bonheur & Why She was Famous?

Who was Rosa Bonheur & Why She was Famous?


Google Doodle Celebrates French Artist Rosa Bonheur’s 200th Birthday: Rosa Bonheur was famous for creating Incredible animal paintings. Her stunningly realistic paintings of animals garnered her international acclaim during her lifetime and inspired generations of female artists to come.

Who was Rosa Bonheur?

Image credit: Google Doodle

Rosa Bonheur was a French realist painter and sculptor who specialised in animals. She was born on 16 march 1822 in France.

Ploughing in the Nivernais, which was initially displayed at the Salon of 1848 and is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and The Horse Fair, which was presented at the Salon of 1853 (completed in 1855) and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, are two of her paintings.

Clarification needed: Bonheur was widely regarded as the most famous female painter of the nineteenth century.

Bonheur was an outspoken lesbian. She was in a relationship with American painter Anna Elizabeth Klumpke after living with her companion Nathalie Micas for nearly 40 years until Micas’ death.

Education and Childhood

Rosa Bonheur (née Marie-Rosalie) was the oldest of four children, two girls and two boys, born to Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, an idealistic artist, and Sophie Bonheur, a patient piano teacher.

Surprisingly, all four of the children grew up to be accomplished artists. Rosa was six years old when her family relocated from rural Bordeaux to Paris in 1829.

She was a hyperactive child who began sketching as soon as she was able to wield a pencil, but struggled with reading and writing at first.

Her mother assisted her in learning fundamental literacy skills by having her draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet. “…One day she had a brilliant idea.

She ordered me to draw an ass opposite the A, a cow opposite the C, and so on…” Rosa remembered.

Bonheur attributed her mother, and this time in her life, for her enduring love and great understanding of animals, using her mother’s creative manner.

Rosa Bonheur Personal Life

Bonheur was noted for dressing like a man. Her choice of trousers was based on their suitability for working with animals (see Rational dress).

Bonheur romantic relationship

Her romantic life had a lesbian flavour to it. There is no evidence, however, that her relationships with women were sexual.

She spent nearly 40 years with her first partner, Nathalie Micas, until Micas’ death, and then began a relationship with American painter Anna Elizabeth Klumpke.

Bonheur’s candour about her personal life was unprecedented at a period when most French officials regarded lesbian sex – particularly tribadism – as animalistic and disordered.

Rosa Bonheur Death

Bonheur died on May 25, 1899, in Thomery (By), France, at the age of 77. Nathalie Micas (1824 – 24 June 1889), her lifelong partner, was buried with her at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Klumpke was Bonheur’s sole heir after her death, and when she died, she was buried alongside Micas and Bonheur in the same cemetery. Many of her paintings, which had never been seen before, were auctioned off in Paris in 1900.

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