In Bordeaux and later in Paris, an exhibition reveals the painter Rosa Bonheur in majesty

11:00 am, September 2, 2022

Greatness and misery of glory, especially for a female artist, and in an underrated genre, animal painting. Rosa Bonheur was born two hundred years ago and after her death her work suffered the scorn of art historians, before being rediscovered little by little from the 1970s onwards and then giving her name to guiguettes in Paris and becoming an icon of the LGBTQI+ community. Because Rosa, born Marie-Rosalie, daughter of landscape painter Raymond Bonheur, was indeed a celebrity in France, Britain and the United States in the late 19th century, before she was haughtily cataloged.” cow painter “. In 1997, a first retrospective was organized in Bordeaux (Gironde).

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It is in this same city, his birthplace, that a new major exhibition is currently dedicated to him. It will end on September 18, before being presented at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from October 18. In 200 pieces, mainly paintings, the two curators, Sandra Buratti-Hasan (deputy director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Bordeaux) and Leïla Jarbouai (chief curator of Orsay), show the “ best of his plethoric production “. The duo replaces her as a great painter, an artist.” powerful and unique“. They also give biographical keys, especially about their companions.

virtuous young woman

The visitor follows the course of his life and discovers the virtuous young woman for the first time. The teenager draws, sculpts and paints, for example, two rabbits (1840), with only 18 years. These two shy and chubby animals with velvety fur look more real than a rabbit hutch. Then come the inevitable cows, sheep and horses that made his reputation and his fortune.

Ruminants and horses under Rosa Bonheur’s brush are far from placid or insipid. She enhances them by opting for the large format, then reserved for large historical paintings. Her touch is quite soft (but a little denser when showing clods of plowed land), meticulous and realistic, at times almost photographic: Rosa Bonheur went into the field to study farm animals and traveled all over France. , as well as in Scotland.

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in the bright Nivernais plowing(1849), commissioned by the State, there is almost the impression of a long tracking plan with, in the center, the gaze of one of the oxen calling. Likewise, another bravery well highlighted by the scenography:the horse market, dated 1855 – this is the National Gallery version, the most famous version, the New York Met being too fragile to travel. “Rosa Bonheur breaks the movement, even before the work of photographer Eadweard Muybridge,details Sandra Buratti-Hasan.Percherons walk, trot, gallop, almost in rebellion, keeping a fragile balance with the men, sharing their momentum.»

She dreamed of America

The exhibition shows other animals, deer of incredible dignity, majestic and true lions”portraitsof dogs. The realist artist sometimes leans towards symbolism, as in this depiction of awounded eagleor towards romanticism in his hazy and mysterious charcoal drawings.

Late in her life, Rosa Bonheur befriended Buffalo Bill and his troupe touring Europe, and drew Native American actors that fascinated her. She dreamed of America, where her paintings were a big hit. But, too old, she could never go there and see the mustang ride in the Great Plains. She drew them in By, in a large-format office, hanging at the end of the route: a cavalcade of fire and a hymn to freedom.

“Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)”, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux until 18 September and at the Musée d’Orsay from 18 October. musba-bordeaux.fr; musee-orsay.fr

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