March 16 – Rosa Bonhuer's Birthday

Posted on March 16, 2014

Portrait of Bonhuer
She wasn't like other women:

She wore pants! She rode horses like a man! She wore her hair short!

And she had a successful career as a painter and sculptor.

As a matter of fact, she was an “animalier.” I know you are wondering what THAT means – it means an artist who specializes in the realistic portrayal of animals.

Rosa Bonhuer, born on this date in 1822, is apparently considered by many to be the most famous female painter of the 1800s! I'n amazed by this – what about Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot? The latter two, of course, are impressionists, and Bonhuer a realist, so perhaps in their own times, Bonhuer was the more famous.

I was fascinated to see that Bonhuer's father was a landscape and portrait painter and that three of her brothers and sisters were also animal painters and sculptors!
One of her most famous paintings, Horse Fair.

Bonhuer began to learn how to draw and paint by copying images from drawing books and from plaster models, but she soon began to draw animals from life. She also went to Paris's famous art museum, the Louvre, and copied from the paintings there. (Did I mention she was French?)

Lion at Rest
Bonhuer also studied animal anatomy and did dissections at a veterinary institute. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Bonhuer kept more animals in her home than most; at one point she had two lions, a stag, a wild sheep, a gazelle, and horses!

By the way, Bonhuer explained that she wore pants and rode horses astride because she had to, as she worked with animals. Women's clothing got in the way of working with animals, she said. Apparently she was happy to wear dresses when she wasn't working.

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