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Title: Rosa Bonheur - Masterpieces in Colour Series
Author: Crastre, Fr. (François)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rosa Bonheur - Masterpieces in Colour Series" ***

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Masterpieces in Colour
Edited by M. Henry Roujon


      *      *      *      *      *



      *      *      *      *      *

    [Illustration: PLATE I.--THE LION MEDITATING

    (Rosa Bonheur Museum)

    According to artists, the lion is the most difficult of all
    animals to paint, on account of the prodigious mobility of his
    physiognomy. Rosa Bonheur was able, thanks to her inimitable
    art, to catch and reproduce the fugitive facial expressions of
    the kingly beast,--expressions that the artist succeeded in
    securing during a visit to a certain menagerie, and which she
    managed to record with a most surprising vigour and fidelity.]




Translated from the French by Frederic Taber Cooper

Illustrated with Eight Reproductions in Colour

Frederick A. Stokes Company
New York--Publishers

Copyright, 1913, by
Frederick A. Stokes Company

[Illustration: August, 1913]




    Childhood and Youth      11

    The First Successes      22

    The Years of Glory       45



       I. The Lion Meditating            Frontispiece
          Rosa Bonheur Museum

      II. The Ass                                  14
          Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By

     III. The Horse Fair                           24
          National Gallery, London

      IV. Ploughing in the Nivernais               34
          Luxembourg Museum, Paris

       V. Ossian's Dream                           40
          Rosa Bonheur Studio, Peyrol Collection

      VI. The Duel                                 50
          Collection of Messrs. Lefèvre, London

     VII. Tigers                                   60
          Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By

    VIII. Trampling the Grain                      70
          Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By


In 1821, a young painter of brilliant promise was living in Bordeaux.
His name was Raymond Bonheur. But the fairies who presided at his
birth omitted to endow him with riches, in addition to talent. The
hardships of existence compelled him to relinquish his dreams of glory
and to pursue the irksome task of earning his daily bread. The artist
became a drawing master and went the rounds of private lessons. Among
his pupils he made the acquaintance of a young girl, Mlle. Sophie
Marquis, as penniless as himself, but attractive and gentle, full of
courage, and displaying exceptional ability in music. A similarity of
tastes and opinions drew these two artistic natures toward each other.
They fell in love, and the marriage service united their destinies.

The young couple started upon married life with no other fortune than
their mutual attachment and equal courage. He continued to teach
drawing and she gave lessons in music. But before long she was forced
to put an end to these lessons in order to devote herself to new
duties. Indeed, it was less than a year after their marriage, namely
on the 16th of March, 1822, that a little girl was born into the
world: this little girl was Rosalie Bonheur, better known under the
name of Rosa Bonheur.

It is not surprising in such an artistic environment, that the child's
taste should have undergone a sort of obscure, yet undoubted
impregnation. From the time that she began to understand, she heard
art and nothing else discussed around her; her first uncertain steps
were taken in her father's studio, and her first playthings were a
brush and a palette laden with colours.

    [Illustration: PLATE II.--THE ASS

    (Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By)

    Rosa Bonheur was inimitable in the art of seizing the expression
    on the face of an animal. Here, for instance, is a study of an
    ass which makes quite a charming picture. Note the admirable
    rendering of the animal's attitude, which is half obstinacy and
    half resignation, while the worn-out body weighs so heavily on
    the shrunken legs!]

Rosalie could hardly walk before she was drawing and painting
everywhere. Later on, she gave a spirited account of this:

"I was not yet four years old when I conceived a veritable passion for
drawing, and I bespattered the white walls as high as I could reach
with my shapeless daubs: another great source of amusement was to cut
objects out of paper. They were always the same, however: I would
begin by making long paper ribbons, then with my scissors, I would cut
out, in the first place, a shepherd, and after him a dog, and next a
cow, and next a ship, and next a tree, invariably in the same order. I
have spent many a long day at this pastime."

The Bonheurs had, at this time, formed a close friendship with a
family by the name of Silvela, but the latter left Bordeaux in 1828 in
order to assume the direction of an institute for boys in Paris. The
separation did not break off their intercourse. They corresponded
frequently and in every letter the Silvelas urged Raymond Bonheur to
come and join them in Paris where, they said, he would find an easier
and more remunerative way of employing his talent. These repeated
appeals strongly tempted the man, but a journey to Paris, at this
epoch, was not an easy matter. Besides, his family had increased to
the extent of two more children: Auguste Bonheur, born in 1824, and
Isidore Bonheur, born in 1827. At last, after much hesitation, he made
up his mind to set forth alone to try his luck, prepared to return
home if he did not succeed.

He went directly to the Silvelas' in the capacity of instructor of
drawing; the families of some of the pupils took an interest in him
and obtained him opportunities. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, the great
naturalist, entrusted him with the execution of a large number of
plates for a natural history. If not a fortune, this was at least an
assured living. Accordingly, Bonheur decided to transfer his entire
household to Paris.

They joined him in 1829 and were installed in the Rue Saint-Antoine.

Little Rosa, who was then seven years old, was no sooner settled in
Paris, than she was placed together with her brothers in a boys'
school which happened to be located in the same house where the
Bonheurs lived.

Being brought up with young boys of her own age, she acquired those
boyish manners that she retained throughout life, and to which she
owes, without the slightest doubt, that virile mark which was destined
to characterize her painting. She used to go with her comrades, during
recess, to play in the Place Royale. "I was the ring-leader in all
the games and I did not hesitate, when necessary, to use my fists."

The revolution of 1830 ensued and Rosa witnessed it develop beneath
the windows of her father's dwelling. These were evil hours and the
Bonheur family suffered in consequence. Lessons became rarer and the
pinch of poverty was felt within the household, which was forced to
migrate again to No. 30 Rue des Tournelles, a large seventeenth
century mansion, solemn and gloomy, of which Rosa must have retained
the worst possible memories had it not chanced that it was here she
acquired a little comrade, Mlle. Micas, who was destined to become,
subsequently, her best friend.

The years which followed were equally unfortunate for Raymond Bonheur:
Paris had hardly recovered from the shock of the Revolution, when in
1832 the cholera made its appearance. There was no further question of
lessons, for everyone thought solely of his own safety; the rich fled
from the city, the others remained closely housed in order to avoid
the fatal contagion. To escape the scourge, Raymond Bonheur once more
changed his dwelling and established himself in the Rue du Helder.
Variable and impulsive by nature, the painter delighted in change. He
was barely installed in the Rue du Helder when he left the new abode
in order to move to Ménilmontant in the centre of a hotbed of
Saint-Simonism, the doctrines of which he had enthusiastically
espoused. In 1833, we find him installed on the Quai des Écoles. This
year a great misfortune befell the family: Mme. Bonheur died and the
painter found himself alone and burdened with the responsibility of
feeding, tending, and bringing up four children, one of whom, Isabelle
Bonheur, born in 1830, was only three years old.

It was at this time that Raymond Bonheur became anxious to have Rosa,
who was now eleven years of age, acquire some vocation. Inasmuch as
she had shown the most violent aversion to study in every school she
had attended, her father fancied that perhaps business would be more
to her taste. Accordingly he apprenticed her to a dressmaker. But the
young girl showed no more inclination for sewing than for arithmetic
and grammar. At the end of two weeks it became necessary to give up
the experiment.

Raymond Bonheur, who was absent all day long giving lessons, was
absolutely bent upon finding some occupation for Rosa. He made one
last attempt to send her to school; so he placed her with Mme. Gibert
in the Rue de Reuilly. Rosa with her boyish manners and her
incorrigible turbulence brought revolution into the peaceful precincts
of the pension. She engaged her new comrades in games of mimic
warfare, combats, cavalry charges across the flower-beds of the garden
which was reduced to ruins before the end of the second day. The
principal in consternation returned the irrepressible amazon to her

The latter, in very natural despair, allowed Rosa to stay at home, in
the Rue des Tournelles, where he was newly established and where he
had fitted up a studio. He even allowed the young girl free entry to
the studio and gave her permission to sketch. She asked for nothing
better. While her father scoured the city on his round of lessons, she
would shut herself into the studio and work with desperate energy,
taking in turn every object hanging on the walls for her models.

One day on returning home, at the end of his day's work, Raymond
Bonheur discovered on the easel a little canvas representing a bunch
of cherries, a well drawn canvas and excellently painted from nature.
This was Rosa Bonheur's first painting; it bore witness to a genuine
artistic temperament. Her father was delighted, but he hid his

"That is not so bad," he allowed to Rosa. "Work seriously, and you may
become an artist."

This word of encouragement set the young girl's heart to pulsing with
emotion. Then it needed only application and courage? She felt within
her an energy that nothing could rebuff and an ambition that nothing
could quench.

Rosa Bonheur had found her path.


Not long after this, a serious and determined young girl might be seen
in the halls of the Louvre, copying with desperate energy the works of
the great masters. She wore an eccentric costume, consisting of a sort
of dolman with military frogs. It was young Rosa Bonheur serving her
apprenticeship to art. The students and copyists who regularly
frequented the museum, not knowing her name, had christened her "the
little hussard." But the jests and criticisms flung out by passing
strangers in regard to her work, far from discouraging her, only
drove her to still more obstinate and persistent study. The hours
which she did not consecrate to the Louvre, she spent in her father's
studio, multiplying her sketches and anatomical studies. Even at this
period she had already grasped instinctively the truth formulated by
Ingres, that "honesty in art depends upon line-work." Few painters
have so far insisted upon this honesty, this conscientiousness,
without which the most gifted artist remains incomplete. Whatever
gifts he may be endowed with by nature, talent cannot be improvised;
it is the fruit of independent and sustained toil. Later on, when she
in her turn became a teacher, Rosa Bonheur was able to proclaim the
necessity of line-work with all the more authority because it had
always been the fundamental basis, the very scaffolding of all her
works. "It is the true grammar of art," she would affirm, "and the
time thus spent cannot fail to be profitable in the future."

    [Illustration: PLATE III.--THE HORSE FAIR

    (National Gallery, London)

    This painting is considered by some critics to be Rosa Bonheur's
    masterpiece. There is no other painting of hers in which she
    attained the same degree of power, or the same degree of truth
    in individual expression. What naturalness, and what vigour in
    this drove of prancing horses, and what movement of those
    haunches straining under the effort of the muscles!]

During this period of study, she was living in the Rue de la
Bienfaisance; her father's mania for changing his residence dragged
her successively to the Rue du Roule, and then to the Rue Rumford, in
the level stretch of the Monceau quarter, where Raymond Bonheur, who
had just remarried, installed his new household.

At that time the Rue Rumford was practically in the open country. On
all sides there were farms abundantly stocked with cows, sheep, pigs,
and poultry. This was an unforeseen piece of good fortune for young
Rosa, and she felt her passionate love for animals reawaken. Equipped
with her pencils, she installed herself at a farm at Villiers, near to
the park of Neuilly, and there she would spend the entire day,
striving to catch and record the different attitudes of her favourite
models. For the sake of greater accuracy, she made a study of the
anatomy of animals, and even did some work in dissection. Not content
with this, she applied herself to sculpture, and made models of the
animals in clay or wax before drawing them. This is how she came to
acquire her clever talent for sculpture which would have sufficed to
establish a reputation if she had not become the admirable painter
that we know her to have been.

Her special path was now determined: she would be a painter of
animals. She understood them, she knew them, and loved them. But it
did not satisfy her to study them out-of-doors; she wanted them in her
own home. She persuaded her father to admit a sheep into the
apartment; then, little by little, the menagerie was increased by a
goat, a dog, a squirrel, some caged birds, and a number of quails that
roamed at liberty about her room.

At last, in 1841, after years of devoted toil, Rosa ventured to offer
to the Salon a little painting representing _Two Rabbits_ and a
drawing depicting some _Dogs and Sheep_. Both the drawing and the
painting were accepted. It was an occasion of great rejoicing both
for Rosa Bonheur and for her father. The young artist was at this time
only nineteen years of age.

From this time forward, she sent pictures to the Salon annually.
During the first years her exhibits passed unnoticed; but little by
little her sincerity and the vigour of her talent made an impression
upon the critics. The latter were soon forced to admire the intense
relief of her method of painting, living animals transcribed in full
action, and their different physiognomies rendered with admirable
fidelity and art. But what labour it cost to arrive at this degree of
perfection! Every morning, the young artist made the rounds of
slaughter-houses, markets, the Museum, anywhere and everywhere that
she might see and study animals. And this was destined to continue
throughout her entire life.

In 1842 she sent three paintings to the Salon: namely, an _Evening
Effect in a Pasture_, a _Cow lying in a Pasture_, and a _Horse for
Sale_; and in addition to these, a terra-cotta, the _Shorn Sheep_,
which received the approval of the critics. And no less praise was
bestowed upon her paintings, which showed a talent for landscape fully
equal to her mastery of animal portraiture.

Her success was progressive. Her pictures in the Salon of 1843 sold to
advantage and Rosa Bonheur was able to travel. She brought home from
her trip five works that found a place in the Salon of 1845. The
following year her exhibits produced a sensation. Anatole de la Forge
devoted an enthusiastic article to her, and the jury awarded her a
third-class medal.

"In 1845," Rosa Bonheur herself relates, "the recipients had to go in
person to obtain their medals at the director's office. I went, armed
with all the courage of my twenty-three years. The director of
fine-arts complimented me and presented the medal in the name of the
king. Imagine his stupefaction when I replied: 'I beg of you,
Monsieur, to thank the king on my behalf, and be so kind as to add
that I shall try to do better another time.'"

Rosa Bonheur kept her word: her whole life was a long and sustained
effort to "do better." After the Salon of 1846, where she was
represented by five remarkable exhibits, she paid a visit to Auvergne,
where she was able to study a breed of cattle very different from any
that she had hitherto seen and painted: superb animals of massive
build, with compact bodies, short and powerful legs, and wide-spread
nostrils. The sheep and horses also had a characteristic physiognomy
that was strongly marked and noted with scrupulous care, and enabled
her to reappear in the Salon of 1847 with new types that gathered
crowds around her canvases, to stare in wonderment at these animals
which were so obviously different from those which academic convention
was in the habit of showing them.

The general public admired, and so did the critics. It was only the
jury that remained hostile towards this independent and personal
manner of painting, which ignored the established procedure of the
schools and based itself wholly upon inspiration and sincerity;
accordingly, they always took pains to place her pictures in obscure
corners or at inaccessible heights. The public, however, which always
finds its way to what it likes, took pains on its part to discover and
enjoy them.

In 1848 Rosa Bonheur had her revenge. The recently proclaimed
Republic, wishing to show its generosity towards artists, decreed that
all works offered that year to the Salon should without exception be
received. As to the awards, they were to be determined by a jury from
which the official and administrative element was to be henceforth
banished. The judges were Léon Cogniet, Ingres, Delacroix, Horace
Vernet, Decamps, Robert-Fleury, Ary Scheffer, Meissonier, Corot, Paul
Delaroche, Jules Dupré, Isabey, Drolling, Flandrin, and Roqueplan.

Rosa Bonheur exhibited six paintings and two pieces of sculpture. The
paintings comprised: _Oxen and Bulls_ (Cantal Breed), _Sheep in a
Pasture_, _Salers Oxen Grazing_, a _Running Dog_ (Vendée breed), _The
Miller Walking_, _An Ox_. The two bronzes represented a _Bull_ and a

Her success was complete. Judged by her peers, in the absence of
academic prejudice, she obtained a medal of the first class.

This year an event took place in her domestic life. As a result of
recent remarriage, her father had a son, Germain Bonheur. The house
had become too small for the now enlarged family; besides, the crying
of the child, and the constant coming and going necessitated by the
care that it required seriously interfered with Rosa's work.
Accordingly she left her home in the Rue Rumford and took a studio in
the Rue de l'Ouest. She was accompanied by Mlle. Micas, the old-time
friend of her childhood, whom she had rediscovered, and who from this
time forth attached herself to Rosa with a devotion surpassing
that of a sister, and almost like that of a mother. She also was an
artist and took a studio adjoining that of her friend; several times
she collaborated on Rosa's canvases, when the latter was over-burdened
with work. After Rosa had sketched her landscape and blocked in her
animals, Mlle. Micas would carry the work forward, and Rosa, coming
after her, would add the finishing touch of her vigorous and
unfaltering brush. But to Rosa Bonheur Mlle. Micas meant far more as a
friend than as a collaborator. With a devoted and touching tenderness
she watched over the material welfare of the great artist, who was by
nature quite indifferent to the material things of life. It was the
good and faithful Nathalie who supervised Rosa's meals and repaired
her garments. She was also a good counsellor, and on many different
occasions Rosa Bonheur paid tribute to the intelligence and devotion
of her friend.


    (Luxembourg Museum)

    This painting shows the artist in the full possession of her
    vigorous and unfaltering talent. The Luxembourg is to-day proud
    of the possession of such a masterpiece. It testifies to Rosa
    Bonheur's equal eminence as an animal painter and a painter of

The resplendent successes of recent Salons had in no wise diminished
Rosa Bonheur's ardent passion for study. In contrast to many another
artist, who think that there is nothing more to learn, as soon as they
become known, she persevered without respite in her painful drudgery
of research and documentation.

Every day she covered the distance from the Rue de l'Ouest to the
slaughter-houses in order to catch some hitherto unknown aspect of
animal life, and to note the quivering of the wretched beast that
scents the blood and foresees its approaching death.

There was much that was disagreeable for a young woman in this daily
promiscuous contact with butchers, heavy, tactless brutes, who
frequently insulted her with their vulgar and suggestive jokes. She
pretended not to understand, but nothing short of her unconquerable
passion for study would have sustained her courage.

Together with the success of recognition came the success of
prosperity. Rosa began to sell her paintings profitably. A certain
shirt-manufacturer, M. Bourges, who was also an art collector,
acquired a goodly number of her works; and after him came M. Tedesco,
the celebrated picture dealer, who was a keen admirer of her talent.
In 1849, the far reaching renown of her _Ploughing in the Nivernais_
brought her the honour of making a sale to the State, which acquired
the celebrated painting for the Museum of the Luxembourg, where it
still remains.

The subject of the picture is well known: in a pleasant stretch of
rolling country, bounded by a wooded slope, two teams of oxen are
dragging their heavy ploughs and turning up a field in which we see
the furrows that have already been laid open. The whole interest
centres in the team in the foreground. The six oxen which compose it,
ponderous and slow, convey a striking impression of tranquil force:
and from the different attitudes of the six, we perceive a progression
in the degree of effort put forth to drag the plough. The first two
move with a heavy nonchalance that bears witness to the slight
contribution that they make to the task; the next two, being nearer
the plough, are doing more real work; their straining limbs sink
deeper into the earth and their lowered heads indicate the greater
tension of their muscles. As to the last two, they are sustaining the
heaviest part of the toil, as is apparent from the way in which their
muscles visibly stand out, and from the contraction of their limbs
gathered under them in the effort to drag free the weight of the
ploughshare buried in the soil. It is only those who never have
witnessed the tilling of the soil who could remain unmoved in the
presence of such a work. The oxen are admirable in composition, in
action, in modelling, and in strength. And what is to be said of the
landscape which is bathed in a clear, bright light, flecked here and
there with trails of fleecy cloud?

It seemed that after such a picture, it would be impossible for
Rosa Bonheur to rise to a greater height of perfection. Nevertheless,
three years later she exhibited her _Horse Fair_, a remarkable
achievement which raised her while still living to the pinnacle of
glory. The _Horse Fair_ is not only the artist's masterpiece, but it
is one of those productions which do the greatest honour to French
painting. Celebrated from the day of its first appearance, this canvas
has steadily gained in the esteem of the world of art and was destined
to bring, even in our own times, the fabulous price attained by
certain paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael, and Holbein.

    [Illustration: PLATE V.--OSSIAN'S DREAM

    (Rosa Bonheur Studio, Peyrol Collection)

    A fantasy by the great artist. During her visit to Scotland her
    soul had thrilled at the recital of poetic legends; and this is
    one of these dreams that she has rendered in an inspired page,
    in which she reveals her mastery of a type of subject which she
    undertook only accidentally.]

In preparation for her _Horse Fair_, Rosa Bonheur betook herself daily
to the spot where the fair was held. But having learned wisdom through
the embarrassment of her experiences at the slaughter-house, she
assumed masculine garments, in order to attract less attention. She
formed the habit of assuming them frequently from that time onward,
especially in her studio.

In spite of its triumphal success, the _Horse Fair_ did not
immediately find a purchaser and was returned to the artist's studio.
It was acquired later on by Mr. Gambard, the great London picture
dealer, for the sum of 40,000 francs.

This celebrated canvas has a lengthy history which deserves to be

In coming to terms with Mr. Gambard, Rosa Bonheur, who was never
avaricious, feared that she had exacted too large a sum in demanding
40,000 francs. Since the purchaser desired to reproduce the picture in
the form of an engraving, and its dimensions were so great as to
hamper considerably the work of the engraver, she offered to make Mr.
Gambard, without extra charge, a reduced replica of the _Horse Fair_,
one-quarter the original size.

Mr. Gambard, who was making an excellent bargain, accepted with an
eagerness that it is easy to imagine. The reduced copy was delivered
and was immediately purchased by an English art fancier, Mr. Jacob
Bell, for the sum of 25,000 francs. As for the original, it was
exhibited in the Pall Mall gallery, but its vast dimensions
discouraged purchasers. It was at last acquired by an American, Mr.
Wright, at the cost of 30,000 francs, on condition that Mr. Gambard
might retain possession for two or three years longer, in order to
exhibit it in England and the United States. When the moment for
delivery arrived, the American claimed that he was entitled to a share
of the profits resulting from the exhibition of the work. As a
consequence, the picture which was originally purchased by Mr. Gambard
for 40,000 francs, eventually brought him in only 23,000, while the
reduced replica, which cost him nothing, brought him in 25,000 francs.
Considerably later, the American owner having met with reverses, the
_Horse Fair_ was sold at public auction and was knocked down at
$53,000 (265,000 francs) to Mr. Vanderbilt, who presented it to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As to the reduced copy, the property of Mr. Jacob Bell, the latter
bequeathed it, together with his other paintings, to the National
Gallery, where it now is. The reproduction which we give in the
present volume was made from this smaller copy.

When Rosa Bonheur learned that this reduced replica was to find a
place in the National Gallery, she exhibited a scrupulousness that
well illustrates her honesty and disinterestedness. Since it was
originally painted merely to serve as a model for the engraver, the
artist had not given it the finish that she was accustomed to give to
her pictures. Accordingly, she set to work for the third time to paint
the _Horse Fair_, and bestowed upon it such conscientious work and
mature talent that in the opinion of some judges this second replica
is superior to the original. When the canvas was finished, she offered
it to the London Gallery. The English authorities were deeply touched
by the scrupulousness of the famous artist, and thanked her cordially,
but explained that they felt themselves bound by the terms of the
Jacob Bell bequest, and consequently could not take advantage of her
generous offer. The work, nevertheless, remained in England, having
been purchased by a Mr. MacConnel for 2,500 francs.

After her immense success at the Salon of 1854, Rosa Bonheur gave up
her studio in the Rue de l'Ouest, and installed herself in the Rue
d'Assas, in a studio which she had had built expressly to suit her


The new studio in the Rue d'Assas was very far from being a
commonplace studio. It was situated in the rear of a large court, and
occupied the entire rear building. It was an immense room, with a
broad, high window, through which a superb flood of daylight streamed
in; and from floor to ceiling the walls were lined with studies,
drawings, sketches, rough essays in colour, that the great artist had
brought back from her travels. So far, nothing the least out of the
ordinary. But what gave the establishment its picturesque and curious
character was the court-yard, transformed by Rosa Bonheur into a
veritable farm. Under shelters arranged along the walls a variety of
animals roamed at will: goats, heifers of pure Berri breed, a ram, an
otter, a monkey, a pack of dogs, and her favourite mare, Margot.
Mingled with the divers cries of this heterogeneous menagerie, were
the bewildering twitterings of an assortment of birds, the clucking of
hens, the sonorous quack-quack of ducks, and dominating all the rest,
the strident screams of numerous parrakeets.

And all this was only one part of her menagerie; the rest was
domiciled at her country place at Chevilly, where she also had another
studio. Even in the country Rosa Bonheur had no chance to rest. She
had now become celebrated, and the patrons of art fought among
themselves for her productions. The two art firms of Tedesco in Paris
and Gambard in London deluged her with orders; and, in spite of her
courage, she could hardly keep pace with them.

Her reputation had overleaped frontiers; she was as celebrated abroad
as she was in France. The city of Ghent, to which she had loaned the
_Horse Fair_ for its exposition, demonstrated its gratitude by sending
her an official delegation headed by the burgomaster himself, to
present her with a jewel of much value.

Her talent was no longer open to question; everyone agreed in
recognizing it. The critics saw in her far more than a conscientious
and gifted artist; they regarded her as the inspired interpreter of
rural life. "The work of Rosa Bonheur," wrote Anatole de la Forge in
1855, "might be entitled the _Hymn to Labour_. Here she shows us the
tillage of the soil; there, the sowing; further on, the reaping of the
hay, and then that of the grain; elsewhere the vintage; always and
everywhere, the labour of the field. Man, under her inspired touch,
appears only as a docile instrument, placed here by the hand of God
in order to extract from the bowels of the earth the eternal riches
that it contains. Also, in depicting him as associated with the toil
of animals, she shows him to us only under a useful and noble aspect;
now at the head of his oxen, bringing home the wagons heavily laden
with the fruit of the harvest; or again, with his hand gripping the
plough, cleaving the soil to render it more productive." And Mazure,
writing at the same period, declared: "Next to the old Dutch painters,
and better than the early landscape artists in France, we have in our
own day some very clever painters of cattle. They are Messieurs
Brascassat, Coignard, Palizzi, and Troyon, and more especially a
woman, Mlle. Rosa Bonheur, who carries this order of talent to the
point of genius. Several of them must be praised for the art with
which they work their animals into the setting of the landscape; but
if we consider the painting of the animals themselves, regardless of
the landscape, and if what we are seeking is a monograph on the
labour of the fields, nothing can compare with the artist whose name
stands last in the above list."

    [Illustration: PLATE VI.--THE DUEL

    (Collection of Messrs. Lefêvre, London)

    This picture is one of the last that Rosa Bonheur painted. It is
    celebrated in England because of the reputation of the two
    horses who are engaged in this passionate duel, on which the
    artist has expended all the resources of her marvellous talent.]

Equally enthusiastic over her paintings was Mr. Gambard, who
supplemented his enthusiasm with a very warm personal friendship for
the great artist. He had several times invited her to visit England;
in 1854 Rosa Bonheur made up her mind to take the journey, accompanied
by Mlle. Micas. It proved to be a triumphal journey. After a sojourn
at the Rectory at Wexham, with Mr. Gambard as host,--a sojourn marked
by official invitations and delicate attentions,--Rosa Bonheur made a
long excursion into Scotland, accompanied by friends across the

This cattle-raising land stirred her to a passionate interest. In the
fields through which her route lay cattle came into view from time to
time; and hereupon the artist would have the carriage halted, and take
notes upon her drawing tablets. Each herd that was encountered meant
a new halt and new sketches. The great fair at Falkirk, to which herds
were brought from every corner of Scotland, afforded her a unique
opportunity for observations and studies. From morning until evening
she plied her pencil feverishly, accumulating material for future
paintings. At this same fair she purchased a young bull and five
superb oxen, to help complete her menagerie. From this journey she
brought back a number of pictures of remarkable vigour and beauty.
They include a _Morning in the Highlands_, _Denizens of the
Highlands_, _Changing Pasture_, _After a Storm in the Highlands_,
etc., etc.

Rosa Bonheur returned to her studio in the Rue d'Assas and immediately
prepared her exhibits for the Universal Exposition of 1855. She was
represented there by a _Hay Harvest in Auvergne_, which brought her
the grand medal of honour.

From this time forward Rosa Bonheur ceased to exhibit at the Salons.
She believed, and not without reason, that her reputation had nothing
more to gain by these annual offerings, which interrupted her more
productive work. She had given herself freely to the public;
henceforth she sought only to satisfy the demands of the patrons of
art, who, in daily increasing numbers, besieged her with their orders.
She worked chiefly for the English, who had given her so warm a
welcome, and who, perhaps, had a better sense than the French have, of
the beauty of the life of the soil. The Frenchman, good judge that he
is in matters of art, duly admires a beautiful work, regardless of its
subject; he is able to appreciate the composition of an agricultural
scene, but, being little inclined by nature to the work of the fields,
he will rarely feel a desire to adorn the walls of his apartment with
a _Harvest Scene_ or _Grazing Cattle_; he assumes that it is the
business of the museums to acquire pictures of this order. The
Englishman is quite different. As a landed proprietor deeply attached
to his ancestral acres, he appreciates paintings of rural life, less
as an artist than professionally, as a gentleman-farmer who knows all
the breeds of cattle and sheep and to whom Rosa Bonheur's paintings
were at this epoch veritable documents, quite as much as they were
works of art.

In 1860, she gave up her studio in the Rue d'Assas, as well as the one
at Chevilly, in order to install herself at By, in the chateau of By
which she had purchased for 50,000 francs and in which she had a vast
studio constructed. Hither she transferred her imposing menagerie
which had grown year by year through new acquisitions. It included
sheep, gazelles, stags, does, kids, an eagle, various other birds,
horses, goats, watch dogs, hunting dogs, greyhounds, wild boars,
lions, a yak (an animal known by the name of the grunting ox of
Tartary), monkeys, parrakeets, marmosets, squirrels, ferrets, turtles,
green lizards, Iceland ponies, moufflons, lizards, wild American
mustangs, bulls, cows, etc.

Rosa Bonheur worked with desperate energy in the midst of her models
and delighted in portraying them in a setting of some one of those
picturesque and impressive vistas of the forest of Fontainebleau,
adjacent to her own residence. She was unremittingly productive; yet
France hardly heard her name mentioned save as an echo of her triumphs
abroad. England has gone wild over her paintings; and America was not
slow in following suit.

But the echo was so loud, especially after the Universal Exposition at
London in 1862, that the government three years later made her
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Rosa Bonheur has given her own
account of the event:

"In 1865," she writes, "I was busily engaged one afternoon over my
pictures (I had the _Stags at Long-Rocher_ on my easel), when I heard
the cracking of a postillion's whip and the rumble of a carriage. My
little maid Félicité entered the studio in great excitement:

"'Mademoiselle, mademoiselle! Her Majesty the Empress!'

"I had barely time to slip on a linen skirt and exchange my long blue
blouse for a velvet jacket.

"'I have here,' the empress told me, 'a little gift which I have
brought you on behalf of the Emperor. He has authorized me to take
advantage of the last day of my regency to announce your appointment
to the Legion of Honour.'

"And in conferring the title, she kissed the newly made Chevalier and
pinned the cross upon my velvet jacket. A few days later I received an
invitation to take breakfast at Fontainebleau where the Imperial Court
was installed. On the appointed day, they sent to fetch me in gala
equipage. On arriving, I mistook the door and was about to lose my
way, when M. Mocquard came to my rescue and offered his arm to escort
me. At breakfast, I was placed beside the Emperor and throughout the
whole repast he talked to me regarding the intelligence of animals.
The Empress afterwards took me for an excursion on the lake in a
gondola. The Prince Imperial, who had previously called upon me at By,
accompanied us. This visit to the Court greatly interested me, but I
think that I must have been a disappointment to Princess Metternich
who amused herself with watching my every movement, expecting no doubt
to see me commit some breach of etiquette."

In acknowledgment of the distinguished honour she had received from
the Emperor, Rosa Bonheur felt that she was in duty bound to be
represented at the Universal Exposition of 1867. Accordingly, she sent
no less than ten remarkable works: _Donkey Drivers of Aragon_, _Ponies
From the Isle of Skye_, _Sheep on the Seashore_, _A Ship_, _Oxen and
Cows_, _Kids Resting_, _A Shepherd in Béarn_, _The Razzia_, etc.

All that she obtained was a medal of the second class. The judges owed
her a grudge because of her long neglect of twelve years. There could
be no question of disputing her talent, but they resented her having
employed it solely for the benefit of England. The critics showed her
the same coldness, courteous but unmistakable. In some of the
articles, she was referred to as _Miss_ Rosa Bonheur. Some little
injustice was intermingled with this show of hostility; Troyon was
exalted at her expense; and her animals were criticized as being
"purplish and cottony." Furthermore, they reproached her with the fact
that all the pictures exhibited were owned by Englishmen, with the
single exception of the _Sheep on the Seashore_, which was the
property of the Empress.

It is necessary here to open a parenthesis and refer to a period in
the life of the great artist which should not be passed over in
silence: the period of her art school. For this purpose we must turn
back to the year 1849. At that time Raymond Bonheur who, as we know,
gave drawing lessons, was directing a school of design for young
girls, situated in the Rue Dupuytren. One year after his appointment
as director, Raymond Bonheur died and the direction of the school
was instructed to Rosa, who enlisted the aid of her sister, also a
painter of some talent, who was subsequently married to M. Peyrol.

    [Illustration: PLATE VII.--TIGERS

    (Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By)

    Rosa Bonheur spent entire days in the Jardin des Plantes, or in
    menageries in order to catch the attitudes and the mobile
    physiognomies of the beasts of prey. Accordingly no other artist
    has attained such perfect truth, as is shown in the tigers here

Rosa Bonheur fulfilled her duties with much devotion and intelligence.
She herself had too high a regard for line-work to fail to bring to
her task as teacher all of her ardent faith as an artist. She divided
the scheme of instruction into two series, one of the _great studies_
of animals and the other of _little studies_. Rosa Bonheur was not
always an agreeable teacher; she made a show of authority, not to say
severity. She would not excuse laziness or negligence, and when a
pupil showed her a drawing that was obviously done in a hurry she
would grow indignant:

"Go back to your mother," she would say, "and mend your stockings or
do embroidery work."

But this pedagogical rigour was promptly offset by a return of her
natural kindliness, a jesting word, a pleasantry, an affectionate
term intended to prevent the discouragement of a pupil who often was
guilty of nothing worse than thoughtlessness.

Under her firm and able guidance, the school achieved success. Many of
her graduate pupils attained an honourable career in painting, and if
no name worthy of being remembered is included among the whole number,
the reason is that genius cannot be manufactured and that it was not
within the power of Rosa Bonheur to give to her young pupils something
of herself.

In 1860, the great artist, being overburdened with work and unable to
carry on simultaneously the instruction and practice of her art,
resigned her position as director. The school passed into the hands of
Mlle. Maraudon de Monthycle, who won distinction as a director, but
did not succeed in making the name of Rosa Bonheur forgotten.

The time of her retirement as professor of the school of design
coincides with that of her installation at By. After having in a
measure obeyed the paternal tradition of repeated removals, she was
this time definitely established. It was destined to be her last
residence; and it certainly was an attractive place, that great
chateau of By, with its broad windows and its original style, which
called to mind certain dwellings in Holland. And what a delightful
setting it had in the shape of the forest of Fontainebleau, so varied
in aspect, so rich in picturesque corners, so alluring with the beauty
of its dense woodlands, and the poetry of its open glades!

Rosa Bonheur was always passionately enamoured of nature, of the
entire work of creation. She adored animals neither more nor less than
she loved beautiful trees and broad horizons; she went into ecstacies
before the splendour of the rising sun which day by day brings a
renewed thrill of life to all things and creatures; and it was equally
one of her joys to watch the diffused light spreading softly through a
misty haze over the slumbering earth.

Rosa Bonheur had no sooner withdrawn to the solitude of By than she
sought, as we have already seen, to become forgotten, in order to
devote herself exclusively to the innumerable tasks which incessant
orders from England and America demanded of her. She planned for
herself a laborious and tranquil existence, rendered all the
pleasanter through the devoted and watchful affection of her old
friend, Mlle. Nathalie Micas, who lived with her. We have seen that
she came out of her voluntary obscurity in 1867 to the extent of
sending a few pictures to the Universal Exposition. From this date
onward she ceased to exhibit, and no other canvas bearing her
signature was seen in public until the Salon of 1899, which was the
year of her death.

Relieved of all outside interruption, Rosa Bonheur worked with
indefatigable energy. Yet she could hardly keep pace with the demands
of her purchasers, who were constantly increasing in number and
constantly more urgent. Her paintings had acquired a vogue abroad and
brought their weight in gold. Certain pictures brought speculative
prices in America even before they were finished and while they were
still on the easel at By. At this period, it may be added, everything
which came from the artist's brush possessed an incomparable and
masterly finish. Never a suggestion of weakness in design even in her
most hastily executed canvases. I must at once add that hasty canvases
are extremely rare in the life work of Rosa Bonheur; she had too high
a sense of duty to her art and too great a respect for her own name to
slight any necessary work on a canvas. Certain pictures appear to have
been done rapidly solely because the artist possessed among her
portfolios fragmentary studies made from nature and drawn with
scrupulous care, and all that she needed to do was to transfer them to
her canvas.

From the host of works that the artist put forth at this period, we
may cite: 1865, _Changing Pasture_, _A Family of Roebuck_; 1867, _Kids
Resting_; 1868, _Shetland Ponies_; 1869, _Sheep in Brittany_; 1870,
_The Cartload of Stones_.

The war of 1870 brought consternation to her patriotic soul. She
suffered cruelly from the ills which had befallen her country.
Generous by nature and a French woman to her inmost fibre, she did her
utmost to relieve the suffering that she saw around her as a result of
the Prussian invasion. She spoke words of comfort to the peasants and
aided them with donations, distributing bags of grain that were sent
to her by her friend Gambard, at this time consul at Odessa.

One day a Prussian officer of high rank presented himself at her home
in the name of Prince Karl-Frederick. The latter, who was a confirmed
admirer of the artist, whom he had met in former years, sent her an
order of safe-conduct which would place her and her belongings beyond
the danger of any annoyance. Rosa Bonheur ran her eye over the paper
and in the presence of the officer tore it into tiny pieces. Nobly
and simply the great artist refused to accept any favours, feeling, in
view of the existing painful circumstances, that it would be a
shameful thing for her to do. A French woman before all else, she
submitted in advance to all the abuses and exigencies of the
conquerors. On another occasion, a German prince came to By, to pay
his respects. She refused to receive him. We should add that the
Prussians, whose excesses and brutalities were so frequent during that
campaign, had the wisdom not to meddle with Rosa Bonheur.

After the treaty of peace was signed, she set herself eagerly to work
once more. "I was occupied at that time," she wrote, "in studying the
big cats; I made sketches at the Jardin des Plantes, in the circuses,
in the menageries, anywhere and everywhere that I could find lions and

This is the epoch from which dates that admirable series of wild
beasts in which Rosa Bonheur manifests a power of expression and
virility of execution that she never before had occasion to display,
and that seem absolutely incredible as coming from the brush of a
woman. No other painter has rendered with greater truth and force the
undulous and elastic movements of the panther or the tiger; Barye
himself, in his admirable bronzes, has never endowed his lions with
greater life or more majestic grandeur than Rosa Bonheur has done. The
latter, with her astounding memory and with an eye as profound and
luminous as a photographic lens, caught and retained the most fugitive
expressions on the mobile physiognomy of the great cats. She noted
them down with rapid and unfaltering pencil; the painting of the
picture after this was a mere matter of execution. Is there any finer
presentment of the tranquil beauty of a lion in repose than _The Lion
Meditating_? Beneath the royal mane, his features have a haughty
placidity and his eyes a serene intentness that are admirably
rendered. _The Lion Roaring_ is possibly even more beautiful, because
of the difficulty which the artist had to overcome in catching the
peculiarly rapid and mobile expression which accompanies the act of
roaring. Under the effort of his tense muscles, the mane rises,
bristling, around the powerful neck and above the straining head.
There is nothing cruel in the physiognomy of this lion: his roaring is
not the cry of the beast of prey scenting his victim, but the call of
the desert king, saluting the rising orb of day or the descending
night. The artist has admirably expressed this difference in a
foreshortening of the head which Correggio or Veronese might have
envied her.


    (Rosa Bonheur Studio, at By)

    This work, which was her last, is one of the most beautiful of
    all that Rosa Bonheur painted because of the intensity of the
    movement which sweeps the horses in a superb headlong rush, over
    the heaped-up grain which they trample under foot. This splendid
    canvas remains unfinished, death having overtaken the noble
    artist before the final touches had been added.]

In all the animals that she painted,--and she painted nearly all the
animals there are,--Rosa Bonheur succeeded in reproducing their
separate characteristic expressions, "the amount of soul which nature
has bestowed upon them." M. Roger Milès, the excellent art critic,
from whom we have frequently borrowed in the course of this biography,
expresses it in the following admirable manner:

"Through the infinite study that she made of animals, Rosa
Bonheur reached the conviction that their expression must be the
interpretation of a soul, and since she understood the types and the
species that her brush reproduced, she was able, through an instinct
of extraordinary precision, to endow them, one and all, with precisely
the glance and the psychic intensity that belongs to them. She takes
the animals in the environment in which they live, in the setting with
which their form harmonizes, in short, in the conditions that have
played an essential part in their evolution, and she records with
inflexible sincerity what nature places beneath her eyes and what her
patient study has permitted her to understand. It is more especially
for this reason, among many others, that the work of Rosa Bonheur
deserves to live, and that the eminent artist stands to-day as one of
the most finished animal painters with which the history of our
national art is honoured."

In the peaceful and laborious atmosphere of By, the years slipped
happily away. But before long a cloud came to darken this serenity.
The health of her tenderly loved friend, Mlle. Micas, began to
decline; the doctor ordered a southern climate. Rosa Bonheur did not
hesitate; she had a villa built at Nice, and every year, during the
winter, the artist accompanied her beloved invalid to the land of
sunshine. These annual changes of climate and the care with which Rosa
Bonheur surrounded her friend certainly delayed the fatal issue. But
the disease had taken too deep a hold. Mlle. Micas passed away on the
24th of June, 1889. "This loss broke my heart," wrote the artist. "It
was a long time before I could find in my work any relief from my
bitter pain. I think of her every day and I bless the memory of that
soul which was so closely in touch with my own."

From that day onward, Rosa Bonheur became a prey to melancholy, and
her thoughts turned ceaselessly to the tender friend whom she had
lost forever. None the less, she continued to work with dogged energy,
quite as much to deaden her pain as to satisfy the ever increasing

A great joy, however, came to her in the midst of her sorrow.
President Carnot, imitating the Emperor, came in person to bring her
the Cross of Officer of the Legion of Honour. She was keenly
appreciative of such a mark of high courtesy, which was at the same
time a well deserved recompense for an entire life consecrated to art.
Rosa Bonheur possessed a number of decorations, notably the Cross of
San Carlos of Mexico which was given her by the Empress Charlotte, the
Cross of Commander of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, the Belgian
Cross of Leopold, the Cross of Saint James of Portugal, etc. The noble
artist accepted these distinctions gratefully, but was in no way vain
of them, for no woman was ever more simple or more modest than she.

At about this epoch, she devoted herself for a time to pastel work,
and in 1897 exhibited four examples of ample dimensions and
representing various animals. The whole city of Paris flocked to this
exhibition and unanimously proclaimed her talent as a pastel painter.

It was also about this time that she gained a new friend whose
devotion, although it did not make her forget her beloved Nathalie
Micas, at least in a measure softened the bitterness of her loss. A
young American, Miss Anna Klumpke, who was an enthusiastic admirer of
Rosa Bonheur, and who herself had some talent for painting, presented
herself one day at By and begged the favour of an interview with the
artist. The latter received her with her wonted graciousness. The
conversation turned upon art. The young girl emboldened, by her
hostess's kindness, ventured to ask if she might come to take a few
lessons, and at the same time showed a few sketches. Rosa Bonheur
examined them and discovered not merely promise, but what was better,
an unmistakable talent. She not only acquiesced to Miss Klumpke's
desire; she did even better, she offered the hospitality of her own
home. Miss Klumpke's visit, which was to have been for only a short
time, became permanent; a substantial friendship was formed between
the two women; it was Miss Anna Klumpke who closed the eyes of Rosa
Bonheur and who was her sole testamentary legatee. She has piously
preserved the memory of her benefactress and she has converted the
Chateau of By, which she still occupies, into a museum filled with
relics of the great artist. She has also published an admirable volume
upon the life and work of her eminent friend, that forms a veritable
monument of affectionate admiration.

Rosa Bonheur was not slow in reverting again to painting and produced
her famous picture: _The Duel_, the celebrity of which was almost as
great as that of the _Horse Fair_ and _Ploughing in the Nivernais_.
The duel in question is between two stallions, and what adds to the
interest of the scene is that it is historic and perfectly familiar to
all the sporting men of England. It was a struggle in which an Arabian
thoroughbred, Godolphin-Arabian, overpowered Hobgoblin, another
thoroughbred of English breed. The mettle of these horses, fired by
the heat of battle, is interpreted in a masterly fashion.

No less perfect is the canvas representing _The Threshing of the
Grain_, which it took Rosa Bonheur twenty years to bring to
completion. Over a field in which the sheaves of grain have been
strewn, eleven horses, drawn life-size, are driven at full gallop,
trampling the golden tassels under their powerful hoofs. The artist
has rarely attained the height of perfection to which this picture
bears witness.

But at last we come to the close of her career. Rosa Bonheur was
seventy-seven years of age, but in the enjoyment of robust health; her
talent still retained its unvarying power and her hand was still
firm. Her age was not betrayed in any of her works, which had the
appearance of having been painted in the flood-tide of youth. Such is
the impression of critics before her painting, _A Cow and Bull in
Auvergne, Cantal Breed_, which, contrary to her habit, she sent to the
Salon. The praise was unanimous; they even talked of awarding her the
medal of honour which she refused in a letter of great beauty and
dignity. It seemed at that time that the artist would enjoy her robust
old age for a long time to come, when a congestion of the lungs
prostrated her suddenly and the end came in a few days. She died on
the 25th of May, 1899.

The concert of regrets which greeted her death was touching in its
unanimity. Without a dissenting note, without reserve, the entire
press paid tribute to the dignity of her life, the nobility of her
character, the greatness of her talent. According to her desire, she
was interred in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise; and the cortège which
followed her coffin was made up of every eminent figure known to the
Parisian world of art and letters. Strangers came in throngs,
especially from England. And this innumerable cortège that followed
her bier testified more eloquently than any panegyric to the goodness
of this admirable artist who had been able to lead a long and glorious
career without creating a single enemy.

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