Rosa Bohneur was famous for painting animals. She was a French painter born in 1822 in Bordeaux. There aren’t too many famous women artist painters in European Art before the 20th century, especially in the period Rosa Bohneur was born into. Interestingly enough, more women had careers as painters in the century before the French Revolution. Of course they were from the Aristocracy, a woman painter from a lower class was unthinkable.
Rosa Bohneur was an original for her time and was able to live her life in her own terms - and it’s pretty amazing for a woman in the 19th century! She preferred to paint wearing pants, but she had to ask permission to the “Gendarmerie” (local police) to do so! Her work could be on a large scale, like her most famous painting “Ploughing in the Nivernais”, 52” × 100” (above) and she went to farms, markets, fairs to sketch animals and slaughterhouses to study anatomy. She was very successful during her life and travelled to England and the United States. where she was very much admired,
Because of her success she was able to purchase a castle (Le chateau de By) and an estate where she kept live animals like lions! There is a museum in it today dedicated to her. Her paintings reflect an enormous amount of work and passion. She worked the classical way with studies of advanced anatomy and exhaustive preparations. There is no pretense, her work is down to earth and honest. She was able to put herself at the same level as the animals, almost identifying with them, immersing in their world. The animals are not just part of the landscape but are the main subject, having more predominance than the people around them.
Her figurative paintings fell out of fashion at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a new and exciting time in the Art world, the invention of photography and new discoveries in science were influential on Artists who experienced their surroundings in a complete different way. Unfortunately, the contemporary Art world is very condescending towards classical painting, dismissing its demanding work and discipline, categorizing it has a "mere reproduction of reality". Rosa Bohneur is very relevant today. Her humanity towards animals reminds us that we are not separated from them and nature and that ultimately they are part of our survival.