Rosa Bonheur was a French painter and sculptor, and the most prominent of three siblings in the Bonheur family who all became artists specializing in depictions of animals. She first exhibited at the Salon at age 19, and continued exhibiting regularly there until 1855. Her primary subjects were animals, and her skillful portrayals were based upon a deep empathy with them as well as her careful study of anatomy and observation from nature. This was in keeping with the interests of her contemporaries, such as Courbet and Millet, who applied an unsentimental Realist style to portrayals of rural life, and with the Animaliers movement in French bronze sculpture from 1830 to 1900, which aspired to present animals in an authentic, rather than idealized, manner. She kept a small menagerie for inspiration, including chickens, goats and peacocks. Painting was her primary medium, she also sculpted, or modelled, studies of animals, several of which were exhibited at the Salons. She achieved great critical and popular acclaim as well as financial success, all remarkable achievements for a female artist of her time.
Juliette Peyrol Bonheur was Rosa’s sister, and also a skilled animal painter, whose work is in the collection of the Bordeaux Museum of Art, France. She married Hippolyte Peyrol, who had a bronze foundry and issued Rosa’s sculptures as well as those of their brother, Isidore-Jules Bonheur (1827-1901). He also edited this set of prints.
“Isidore-Jules Bonheur.” Victor Franses Gallery. http://www.vfranses.com/bonheurij.htm (8 January 2003).
“(Marie-) Rosa Bonheur.” http://www.artnet.com/library/00/0098/T009871.asp (8 January 2003).