As you probably know Bill & Rosa’s Book room was named for the showman Buffalo Bill and the painter Rosa Bonheur (learn who Rosa was here). March 16th is Rosa’s birthday and this year, 2022, is the Rosa Bonheur Bicentennial. To celebrate her 200th birthday here’s a sampling of the events which include the naming of Rosa Bonheur’s rose, the Rosa Bonheur Festival in July and August, « Rosa Bonheur intimate » exhibition in September, the launch of a postage stamp, retrospective exhibitions at the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, exhibition at the Château de Fontainebleau, publications, conferences, documentaries, tributes…
At Rosa Bonheur’s Chateau
Exhibition: The Museum of the missing artwork
The Château de By, just outside Paris near Fontainebleau, Rosa’s residence for nearly 40 years, is, in 2022, full of effervescence for this big anniversary. The kickoff happened last week when their new exhibition space was inaugurated. The first exhibit is called Le Musée des oeuvres disparues or the Museum of the missing artwork.
Throughout her life, Rosa Bonheur kept almost all of her sketches, thus constituting an enormous artistic “database”. These intimate creations – drawings, oils, watercolors, pastels, caricatures and comic strips – were sometimes notes that she took at random from her travels, sometimes preparatory studies for a particular painting, illustrations of great myths or just caricatures of those around her. In 1900, these thousands of works by Rosa Bonheur were sold at auction in Paris. In the months leading up to the sale, Anna Klumpke, heiress of Rosa Bonheur, photographed a large number of them on glass plates in order to keep a record of them in the archives. While some of these works are now exhibited in museums around the world, most have disappeared… The only evidence of their existence, the glass plates made by Klumpke, were discovered in the attic of the Château. The plates will be revealed to the public for the first time in this unusual exhibition. The exhibition will present a hundred unpublished works by Rosa Bonheur revealing the extent of her work. The drawings are fascinating in that they reveal her technique, her creative process, her choice of subjects and little-known facets of her art such as scenes of chivalry and illustrations of English legends. This expo runs until the end of August.
Keep an eye on the Chateau’s website for Rosa Bonheur Bicentennial conferences and news about the Rosa Bonheur Festival which is dedicated to women’s artistic creation across various disciplines including art and music as well as the Exhibition Rosa Bonheur Intime (Rosa Bonheur Day to Day) which will be held at the chateau starting in September. https://www.chateau-rosa-bonheur.fr
A postage stamp
The French post office has created a magnificent stamp in tribute for the Rosa Bonheur Bicentennial. The stamp designed by Valérie Besser, incorporates one of Rosa’s lion portraits from 1897 and will be printed at 612,000 copies with a face value of 2,86€. The choice of image highlights a facet of Rosa Bonheur’s art, whose oil painting of this same lion, Néro who lived in the artist’s castle, is visible today in the permanent collections of the Prado Museum (Madrid). The painter has immortalized many felines during her career. Often in motion in a natural environment, here, the preparatory drawing shows the face of the animal, the gaze riveted towards the spectator, rendering both the anatomy and the animal’s soul.
Conferences in the town of Thomery
Three free conferences will be held in Thomery at the Salle de la Plage: « Rosa Bonheur and Buffalo Bill », on April 8, « Rosa Bonheur, from the little girl to the artist », on April 9 and « The interest scientist of the work of Rosa Bonheur », on September 17th. The city will also host outdoor walks where reproductions of her artwork will be hung. https://www.thomery.fr/decouvrir-bouger/culture-et-loisirs/agenda/316-rosa-bonheur-expo-conference
The Editor Sabots Rouge has produced an adorable series of children’s books centered around Rosa Bonheur’s parrot Coco and the many other animals that shared the chateau with her. Éditions du Sabot Rouge offers short, illustrated and didactic works to discover heritage. History and heritage come through in the form of tales, nursery rhymes, albums, comic strips or short novels. The series of books using Rosa’s anthropomorphized ménagerie as the principle characters is called in French L’Ara de Rosa (“ara” is a macaw, a bright red south American parrot) help kids discover Rosa the painter in the first two volumes published in 2020. An additional volume, coming out in 2022 has the animals meet Louis Pasteur (his bicentennial is also in 2022) and the difficulties of the arrival of new technology which at the time was the railroad. Beautiful watercolor drawings and easy text in a comic book format are destined for kids ages 6 and up. Each book also contains a few pages of history showing for example some of Rosa Bonheur’s sketches of dogs. Online content is offered as well. All the books are available in e-formats as well as on paper. Editions in English and German are to be published on paper in the near future and are available in e-format already. The books, by author and illustrator Pierre-Yves Cezard and Frédéric Keck, can be ordered directly from the publisher or are available in Bill & Rosa’s Book Room Library for borrowing.
- L’ARA DE ROSA – Les Lions, ROSA’S PARROT – The lions. When two lions arrive at the studio of Rosa Bonheur, the famous animal painter, they receive a cold welcome from her other pets, which plot to get rid of them – fast! As the lions struggle to fit in and Rosa’s patience is put to the test, there is one eye-witness: Coco, Rosa’s parrot.
- L’ARA DE ROSA – Les Microbes (Louis Pasteur). Panic and worry at the castle of Rosa Bonheur! The maid has contracted a mysterious illness. In order to find the causes of this unknown affection, Louis Pasteur visits the castle and investigates all the people and animals, some of which are exotic, with whom the patient has been in contact. A new adventure of the Ara de Rosa which deals in a documented and humorous way with the fears we have of epidemics and their animal origins. Quite a timely theme for a twin bicentennial.
- L’ARA DE ROSA – Les Chiens (Découvert du chemin de fer). The macaw Coco and the dog Yvon take off to investigate incidents related to the new railway. Not seeing them return, Shirley – Yvon’s sister – overcomes her fear and leads the other animals to find them. Going from surprise to surprise, the rescue group faces unexpected dangers and takes us to discover a village upset by the arrival of the new technology.
A Rose for Rosa
How would you describe bonheur? The Roseraie Guillot’s® (nearly bicentennial itself) response to that question was to create a special rose. Sophie Bernier, a biologist at the Roseraie Guillet, poetically told us “Creating this rose required more than 10 years of work. But is it not with time that we can tame in a bush both the sweetness and the energy of happiness? When the time came to find a godmother for this luminous rose with the scent of rosehip, we turned to an artist who resonates in our hearts. And what better occasion, the Rosa Bonheur Bicentennial? The timing was perfect. The partnership between Katherine Brault [proprietor of the chateau] and Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin [who is charged with renovating the gardens at the chateau] with the Roseraie Guillot® was obvious.” This lovely new rosebush which we think might be pink (but the photo has not yet been revealed) will be baptized during a 19th century style picnic on the grounds of the Chateau in June. Stay tuned!
A New Documentary
Rosa Bonheur « Dame Nature » de Gregory Monro
O2B Films is an independent production company based in Paris which specializes in creative documentaries. Since 2010, O2B Films has produced more than 30 documentaries, across a broad editorial line — history, society, science, arts and culture — for most of the major French channels. Gregory Monro is at the helm of their next film which concerns our favorite painter Rosa Bonheur. In the film Bonheur is presented as a rock-star artist, a major figure in female emancipation, a pioneer in the animal cause; her life as a hymn to freedom. Rendez-vous late in 2022, probably in December, on France 5 to discover this 60 minute re-enacted documentary portrait of an extraordinary artist!
A New Novel
A new novel called “I have the Energy of a Lion in the Body of a Bird”, based on the life of Rosa Bonheur, has been written by historian/biographer Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin. It is a delight to read and places Rosa in the context of the tumultuous and exciting events of the 19th century. My goodness she saw a lot: Living from 1822 to 1899 she saw the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, 3 kings, 2 republics, 1 empire, epidemics, Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris, the Prussian invasion and the siege of Paris! Not to mention the new inventions of steamships, railroads (Rosa’s companion Nathalie Micas developed a railroad brake!), photography (which was one of Rosa’s hobbies), the building of the Eiffel Tower and the arrival of electricity (Rosa had a power plant built on her property!). Bonheur knew Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Buffalo Bill and so many other big players in the cultural world. Here is the synopsis of the book which is in French with some 19th century terminology but an uncomplicated level of reading. It is available in Bill & Rosa’s Book Room Library for borrowing.
J’AI L’ENERGIE D’UNE LIONNE DANS UN CORPS D’OISEAU: Vestale de l’art, égérie du féminisme, éprise de liberté et d’idéal, Rosa Bonheur s’imposa comme la plus célèbre artiste animalière au XIXe. Elle connut une carrière fulgurante et vécut un amour fou avec Sir Edwin Landser, le plus grand peintre et sculpteur britannique de son temps, qui nous est pour la première fois révélé. De Paris à Londres, de l’Écosse à la French Riviera, des abattoirs et bas-fonds de la capitale aux ateliers d’artistes et salons mondains jusqu’à son « sanctuaire » à Thomery, Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin nous emporte sur les traces de Rosa Bonheur au fil d’un roman virevoltant qui fait revivre l’artiste et la femme. Une fresque haute en couleur qui nous plonge dans la grande Histoire et l’intimité de Rosa Bonheur, un être de passion et de conviction. Author : Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin, Publisher : Éditions Albin Michel
More exhibitions in 2022
Chateau de By: Rosa Bonheur Intime
Passionate about science and curious about new inventions, Rosa Bonheur was also interested in photography. The artist bought and collected photographic prints to complete her documentation for her paintings. And she tried her hand at this new technology, one of the first women to do so. Rosa Bonheur took a large number of shots which she then developped in her tiny photography studio which like much of her artistic space has remained intact. A prolific photographer, she immortalized her animals and nature, going so far as to stage compositions. These photos allow us to better understand her approach, her philosophy and her art. This exhibition is also a journey into the artist’s daily life plunging the visitor into the unseen intimacy of Rosa, the mischievous, funny, touching, fragile and strong woman far from the clichés conveyed for decades. In each of them there are objects, paintings, trinkets, animals and clothes still present in the artist’s house 123 years after his death. A fabulous set of personal documentation. 17 September to 29 January 2023
Chateau de Fontainebleau: Capturer l’âme. Rosa Bonheur et l’art animalier
This exhibition entitled Capturing the Soul in Animal Art presents works by Bonheur which were donated by her estate along with the large composition commissioned by the State in 1852, La Fenaison en Auvergne. The works include about fifty paintings, drawings, lithographs, sculptures, awards and decorations once again demonstrating Rosa Bonheur’s fascination for the animal majesty whose soul she wished to capture. 3 June 2022-23 January 2023
A major retrospective exhibition
The Musée d’Orsay, Paris and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bonheur’s hometown of Bordeaux are organizing a major retrospective of her work. This artist, known as an icon of the emancipation of women, placed the living world at the heart of her work and existence. She was committed to the recognition of animals in their individuality and sought through her work to express their vitality and their « soul ». With great technical mastery, she knew how to depict both animal anatomy and psychology. This retrospective allows the public to (re)discover the power and richness of her work, by bringing together and choosing from the immense corpus a selection of around 200 works (paintings, arts graphics, sculptures, photographs) from the most prestigious public and private collections in Europe and the United States. On view in Bordeaux 18 May to 18 September 2022, in Paris 18 October 2022 – 15 January 2023