The Musée d’Orsay revisits French artist Rosa Bonheur on the bicentenary of her birth with a major retrospective exhibition of her work (until January 15, 2023). Bonheur, one of the most important 19th century female painters, was hugely successful during her lifetime with her ultra realistic pictures of animals. She sold paintings internationally (mostly in the U.K and U.S) and was recognized with commissions and prizes (she was the first woman artist to receive the Legion of Honor). She was so famous that Victorian-era American children played with Rosa Bonheur dolls. But then after her death as art tastes changed she was mostly forgotten.
Bonheur (1822-1899) is known among the cognosenti for her extraordinary life and personality as a liberated woman who was able to wield her paint brush to make her mark in a very male-dominated world. Born into a family of artists, she produced an abundant body of work mostly depicting animals.
She was committed to the recognition of animals in their singularity and sought through her work to express their vitality and “soul.” She once said “The eye… Is it not the mirror of the soul in all living creatures?”
The exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay is an opportunity to (re)discover —through paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs—a remarkable 19th century artist whose life and work continue to resonate today.
Rosa Bonheur, to January 15, 2023, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.