An experience I need to share with you…
I had the opportunity to visit Rosa Bonheur’s Chateau in the Loire Valley of France - her past home and art studio. It’s pretty much just as she left it when she died in 1899!
And I don't mean I had the opportunity to just tour it, but I had her studio TO MYSELF to paint in, roam her property as I wished, paint where the muse took me … and sleep in her bedroom!! REALLY.
I know, I was pinching myself the entire time. :-)
This year, being the 200th anniversary of Rosa Bonheur's birth (1822-1899), it seems like an appropriate blog to kick the year off with. Officially the exact anniversary day is 2 months away - March 16, 2022.
Also a good topic to give you a hint of what's to come this year...I've heard from many of you that you appreciate learning about Art History. So there will be more interspersed throughout this year.
I took my watercolors with me on my visit... a plein air sketch of Rosa Bonheur's Chateau from the back yard.
Come on in and see what I saw... This is Rosa Bonheur's studio circa 1899. She started painting very early under her artist father's tutelage and became the foremost French wildlife painter of her time. As a women of that era, that was quite remarkable.
For you Western Art History buffs, Buffalo Bill was here too!
Rosa painted this portrait of him on her property in France.
Col. William F. Cody, 1889 by Rosa Bonheur
This painting is at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY
in The Whitney Western Art Museum.
She had many many specimens and animal mounts in her studio space. I was told many were from animals that died on her property. She kept domestic and 'exotic' animals, like monkeys, cages of birds and even lions and tigers!
A She-Goat by Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur's studio, looking toward the fireplace. You can see her paintings in various stages as well as finished pieces.
Since I had her studio to myself, I was sitting here sketching and painting for part of the day, when I looked up...
to see a huge rainbow out the windows of her studio!
Her spirit is still there in those spaces - in her paintings, her portraits, her artifacts, everything. Maybe even the rainbow. ;-)
A small watercolor hanging in her studio.
Her bedroom, next to her studio, in her home where I stayed.
My bedside lamp... a bird lamp... how appropriate.
Another small studio in the back woods on her property behind the Chateau.
I painted from the steps.
So why am I'm sharing all this? Well first I'm always surprised how many people don't know about her and her work. In her day, she was quite famous. Then taking it a little deeper, it's a 'female art history lesson' too.
The 1800's were not that long ago in the the scheme of humans, but wow how far we have come in these 200 years. A good reminder that we ARE making progress. :-)
Her strides helped women artists who have come after her... yes even me. Far away in another country, hundreds of years later. We stand on the shoulders of the generations before us. Generations from all over the world. A deep sense of kinship is felt with female artists that have gone before me.
Interior steps in the Chateau.
If it wasn't for Rosa Bonheur and other like minded women ahead of their time, pushing the limits, my artistic life would have been VERY different. So walking in her footsteps - literally - was a very humbling experience of gratitude.
Permission was needed for a woman to wear pants
which Rosa was granted while she was out painting.
Heck, I was able to attend art school, EVEN go to the figure drawing classes, AND wear pants whenever I wanted! I didn't have to stay home and just learn about Art from my father. Which is a very good thing for me, since my father wasn't an artist like Rosa's was...
200 years has made a big difference!
Rosa's most famous work - The Horse Fair.
A very large complex piece, it was painted between 1852 and 1855, and hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC. She was able to buy the Chateau with the proceeds from this painting.
Evening views from Rosa's property.
Thank you Rosa - MUCH appreciated!
And a very special thank you to Katherine Brault and her daughter Lou Brault. Two very special women I have been fortunate to meet who have purchased the property and are now working hard to keep the spirit of Rosa Bonheur alive and well. Along with keeping the roof from leaking, the pipes working, restoring the gardens, and so much more! They are also currently spearheading a Rosa Bonheur exhibit at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris beginning in October 2022. I'll keep you posted.
To learn more about Rosa's life and work, follow this link….
And to learn more about her home and studio in France, follow the link below. It is in French, so if you don’t speak French or can’t translate it, enjoy the pictures...