Rosa Bonheur French, 1822-1899


Rosa Bonheur was born in France in the Bordeaux region of Gironde in 1822, the oldest child of a family of artists. Her father was known both as a landscape and as a portrait painter, while her mother, who died when Rosa was only eleven, was a piano instructor. One of Rosa's brothers was the animal sculptor Isadore Jules Bonheur. Rosa was reputedly disruptive in school so her mother taught her to read and write at home by having her draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet. In 1828 the family moved to Paris. Her father Raimond eventually agreed to teach her painting himself, since Rosa had been expelled from a number of schools for behavioral issues. Rosa began her art training first by copying images from drawing books and then from plaster models. Eventually she graduated to creating studies from live animals such as horses, sheep, cows, goats, rabbits and any other animals she could find in the pastures surrounding the environs of Paris and from the still wild forests of the Bois de Boulogne. When she was fourteen, she began to copy paintings from the masters at the Louvre, especially the paintings of Nicholas Poussin and Peter Paul Rubens. To further her understanding of animals she studied anatomy and osteology (the study of bones) at the National Veterinary Institute in Paris and even visited the slaughter houses of Paris to view the bone structure of the animals being processed. Rosa favored trousers and a waistcoat as her particular kind of dress and even received permission from the Prefect of Police to dress in men's attire. During her lifetime Rosa was represented by several private art galleries. Ernest Gambart purchased the reproduction rights to her works and later sold engraved copies of her paintings. Rosa Bonheur died in 1899 at the age of 77 at Thomery in France. Many of her paintings which had never been shown before to the public were sold at auction in Paris in 1900, the year following her death.


Awards and Memberships

Commandeur de L'Ordre d'Isabelle la Catholique awarded by Spain's Alphonso XII

Commandeur de L'Ordre de Léopold de Belgique

Honorary member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Honorary Member of the Société des Artistes Belges, 1863

Cross of San Carlos of Mexico, awarded by Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlotta, 1865

Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1865

Membership in the Académie des Beaux-Arts of Antwerp, Belgium, 1868

Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Watercolorists of London

Honorary Member of the Mérite des Beaux-Arts de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, 1885

Officier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1894



Paris Salon 1841, 1843 (Third Class Medal), 1848 (Gold Medal of the First Class), 1853, 1855 (Gold Medal)

Great Exhibit of London, 1862

Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867

Chicago World Colombian Exposition, 1893


Museums and Collections

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 

Art Institute of Chicago  
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Spain   
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Maine
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, England
Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio   

Crocker Art Museum, California

Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire
Dahesh Museum, New York Cit

Detroit Museum of Fine Arts, Michigan

Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull, England 

Figge Art Museum at the University of Iowa  

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Haggin Museum, California
Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts

Hepworth Wakefield, England

Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

Louvre Museum, Paris   

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota  

Musée de Bordeaux

Musée de Boulogne

Musée de Chantilly

Musée de Chevrette

Musée de Grenoble

Musée de Langres

Musée de Lille

Musée de Moutons

Musée de Rouen

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

National Gallery, London, UK 
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
National Museums Liverpool, UK
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey 

Réunion des Musées Nationaux, France  
Ringling Museum of Art, Florida
Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota, Duluth
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, Florida

Wallace Collection, London, UK

Request information

Please notify me when works by Rosa Bonheur become available.