Google Doodle pays tribute to pioneering artist Rosa Bonheur – ARTnews.com

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 200th anniversary of artist Rosa Bonheur, a pioneering Frenchwoman who would become the darling of the English art scene for her lifelike paintings of animals.

As a young woman, Bonheur was encouraged to paint. She spent her days in slaughterhouses and fields studying her animal subjects, and by her early thirties had become famous for her painting. The horse fair (ca. 1852-1855), which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The success of this book definitely launched his career.

Soon after this work won acclaim, Bonheur met royalty like Queen Victoria, and she would eventually become the first woman to receive France’s highest honour, the Legion of Honor. All of this meant that Bonheur had achieved her dream of always supporting herself and the women she loved financially. Bonheur lived with his partner Nathalie Micas for more than 40 years, until the day of Micas’ death.

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When we look at the history of art and see the lack of canonized women, the presence of an artist like Bonheur can often come as a surprise. If she could do it, why not the others? That’s the question Linda Nochlin posed in her landmark 1971 essay “Why Haven’t There Been Great Women Artists?” In it, Nochlin acknowledges Bonheur’s great talent while pointing out the very special circumstances that allowed Bonheur to become “one of the most successful and accomplished female painters of all time.” This essay, along with other writings by feminist scholars, has helped bring renewed attention to Happiness in recent decades.

horse fair

Rosa Happiness, The horse fair, California. 1852–55.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The first of these was the Bonheur family. Both her mother and father belonged to a niche Christian-Socialist sect named Saint-Simonianism, which advocated equality for women and workers. Bonheur’s father, a poor artist, was very keen on the emancipation of women and insisted that she fight for independence and pursue her career as an artist. Bonheur had a close example of what could happen if she fell prey to the domestic trap: her own mother. Nochlin writes that Bonheur “disapproved of the added pressure her father’s apostolate placed on her overburdened mother”, who was raising six children and running the household.

Another important factor was simply timing. Bonheur began drawing cows and other farm animals long before he could read. This love which is his, nurtured by his father, managed to synchronize with the style of the time. “With the rise of the bourgeoisie and the fall of the cultured aristocracy, smaller paintings, usually of everyday subjects, rather than grandiose mythological or religious scenes, were in great demand,” writes Nochlin.

Paintings of landscapes and animals were so sought after that artists looking for security in the market quickly turned to these subjects. Bonheur, naturally inclined to this type of painting at first, was already a master of the style. His pastoral images, like The Highland Shepherd (1859), often depict shepherds and farmers wearing clothes that had already been out of use for over a century by the time she painted these images. The anachronisms were intentional, and critics loved them.

Nochlin viewed Bonheur’s relationship with Micas as a “Platonic union” that offered Bonheur convenient companionship without the sacrifices of marriage, an “arrangement for women who wished to avoid the distraction of children in the days before reliable contraception.” Later reviews called the artist’s relationship with Micas decidedly odd, and also placed more emphasis on Bonheur’s connection to the painter Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, with whom Bonheur lived and whom Nochlin did not mention. While today Bonheur’s relationships with women are seen as indicative of her lesbianism, despite her lack of children she undoubtedly had an effect on her life and career, perhaps more than we know. we can know.


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