Rosa Bonheur

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Rosa Bonheur, née Marie-Rosalie Bonheur, (March 16, 1822 – May 25, 1899) was a French animalière, realist artist, and sculptor. As a painter she became famous primarily for two chief works: Ploughing in the Nivernais (in French Le labourage nivernais, le sombrage ), which was first exhibited at the Salon of 1848, and is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris depicts a team of oxen ploughing a field while attended by peasants set against a vast pastoral landscape; and, The Horse Fair (in French Le marché aux chevaux), which was exhibited at the Salon of 1853 (finished in 1855) and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. Bonheur is widely considered to have been the most famous female painter of the nineteenth century.[1]

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Early development and artistic training

Bonheur was born in Bordeaux, Gironde, the oldest child in a family of artists. Her father Raimond Bonheur was a landscape and portrait painter and an early adherent of Saint-Simonianism, a Christian-socialist sect that promoted the education of women alongside men. The Saint-Simonians also prophesied the coming of a female messiah. Her mother Sophie (née Marquis) who died when Rosa Bonheur was only eleven, had been a piano teacher. Bonheur's younger siblings included the animal painters Auguste Bonheur and Juliette Bonheur and the animal sculptor Isidore Jules Bonheur. That the Bonheur family was renowned as a family of artists is attested to by the fact that Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin used the Bonheurs as an example of "Hereditary Genius" in his 1869 essay of the same title.[2]

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