Rosa Bonheur was born in France in 1822, the oldest of four children. Her father was a painter, who taught his children all he knew about drawing and painting, as there were no art schools that allowed women. He belonged to the St. Simonians, a socialist group which believed in the equality of men and women. Rosa was brought up with an unusual amount of freedom for a girl of that time. She loved animals from the beginning. When her mother Sophie saw she was having trouble learning the alphabet, she suggested Rosa draw an animal for each letter. Rosa was hooked.Rosa spent a great deal of time drawing out in nature, at horse stables, slaughterhouses, and butchers. She preferred wearing pants and keeping her hair cut short, certainly more practical for the work she was doing, but so unusual in those days that she had to get a permit from the French police to wear pants! The Horse Fair, above, was her most famous painting, especially popular in England and the U.S. Many American schoolrooms had prints of this painting on their walls.
Here she is above at the chateau she bought in 1860. Plowing the Nivernais, below, for which she was awarded a gold medal at the Paris salon of 1848. In 1865 Empress Eugenie awards Rosa the Cross of the Legion of Honor, stating 'Genius has no sex'. Rosa is the first female artist ever to receive this award.
Her home is now the Rosa Bonheur museum, open to the public.
One of my favorite quotes of hers:
"I have no patience with women who ask permission to think."