Archive for March 16th, 2012

Rosa Bonheur at 190

March 16, 2012

You are hereby invited to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, to see two works by a great French painter, Rosa Bonheur.

You can see a large, powerful canvas of thundering steers and horses in the Scottish Highlands and you can marvel at the tranquility of a trio of sheep, snuggled together in a meadow, Sheep by the Sea.

This great lady conveyed through her art that animals deserved more respect than they were getting in mid-nineteenth century France.  From her birth in Bordeaux on March 16, 1822 to life in an apartment in Paris where she kept wild animals so she could draw them, to her simple grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery, Bonheur’s is a story worth telling.

She was of the same generation as Anna Sewell, known to girls and their mothers as the author of Black Beauty, which raised awareness of the plight of work horses and led to a general improvement in their treatment. Thanks to these works of art, from the mid-nineteenth century forward, people began to see animals in a more compassionate framework than before.

Rosa Bonheur’s memorial, in addition to her works of art, is a pet cemetery in Maryland which bears her name.  I think she would be very pleased.