Bonheur, Rosa

BORN 16 Mar 1822, Bordeaux, Gironde - DIED 26 May 1899, Thomery, Seine-et-Marne (near Fontainebleau)
BIRTH NAME Bonheur, Rosa Maria
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 74, chemin Serré, ligne 02 (ashes))

Rosa Bonheur was the daughter of the landscape painter Raimond Bonheur from Bordeaux. Her mother was a piano teacher who died when Rosa was eleven. Her father had befriended Goya who lived in exile at Bordeaux until his death in 1828. After she was expelled from several schools and her father decided to educate her as a painter himself. By the time she was fourteen she copied paintings from the Louvre. She visited abattoirs and other locations to study the anatomy of animals. Her first success came in 1849, when "Ploughing in the Nivernais", a commission by the French government, was exhibited. Her large painting "Horse Fair" was completed in 1855 and brought her international fame. Among her admirers was Queen Victoria and she met her in England in 1855 on her way to Scotland. In Scotland she made sketches for later works.

In 1865 the empress Eugénie (who was regent at the time) awarded her the Légion d'Honneur. She was the first woman to receive this honour. When she did research for her painting "Fore de Chevraux" she visited the horse market in Paris wearing men's clothes. She had a special 'permission de travestissement' from the police. She often dressed in men's clothers, sometimes stating that it was simply practical to do so because she was working with animals. But for 45 years she lived with a woman, Nathalie Micas. She had met Nathalie in her teens and after Nathalie's death in 1889 she had a relationship with the American painter Anna Klumpke. She died in 1899 and many of her paintings were sold at an auction in Paris in 1900.

Het younger brother Auguste and her younger sister Juliette were also painters. Her brother Isodore Jules was an animal sculptor.

Related persons
• was the lover of Klumpke, Anna
• was painted by Klumpke, Anna
• lived with Micas, Nathalie


The grave of Rosa Bonheur and Anna Klumpke at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)


Statue of Rosa Bonheur in the Jardin Public, Bordeaux.
Picture by Androom (11 May 2017)


Statue of Rosa Bonheur in the Jardin Public, Bordeaux.
Picture by Androom (11 May 2017)


• Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, Robson Books, London, 1991
Woman of Achievement and Herstory, 1994
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Wikipedia (EN):
Rosa Bonheur - Biography, Quotations & Art - The Art History Archive

Bonington, Richard Parkes

Published: 07 Aug 2009
Last update: 05 Dec 2023