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 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 The exhibition will present a hundred unpublished works by Rosa Bonheur revealing the extent of her work.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 ran until the end of August. Then the Exhibition Rosa Bonheur Intime (Rosa Bonheur Day to Day) which will be held at the chateau started in September – see below.
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 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 was 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.
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® (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 was baptized during a 19th century style picnic on the grounds of the Chateau in September. Here’s how this white rose with en ever so slight tinge of pink is described: « Les très nombreuses petites fleurs parfumées et délicates sont un régal pour les abeilles bourdonnantes. Sa fragrance offre des notes sucrées et printanières au parfum d’églantiers et de jacinthe. Sa floribondité exceptionnelle et sa facilité d’entretien en font un atout pour tous les jardins naturels. Aucun traitement n’est nécessaire pour voir de nouveaux petits boutons prendre sans cesse le relais afin d’assurer une floraison sur toute la saison jusqu’aux premières gelées. Une multitude de tout petits fruits rouges foncés leurs succèdent pour enchanter l’hiver. «
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!
Stéphane Bern’s series Secrets d’histoire presents Rosa Bonheur la fée des animaux.
Several New Novels
THE FRENCH PAINTER AND THE AMERICAN SHOWMAN: THE UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP OF ROSA BONHEUR AND BUFFALO BILL
This historical novel tells the moving story of the unlikely encounter between animal painter Rosa Bonheur and the American entertainer col. William Cody, Buffalo Bill. In 1889: Rosa Bonheur, France’s best-known animal painter, is living in seclusion in her chateau near Paris. One day, she reads that Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show are coming to France. It’s a unique opportunity: she will be able to draw real American bison and wild mustangs. She might even – if they agree – get to meet and paint portraits of Lakota Sioux. But will the feminist artist and the buffalo hunter get along? Little by little they will find out they have more in common than they expected. The result will be a rejuvenation in Rosa Bonheur’s art, a renewed desire to live and love, and the most famous portrait of Colonel William Cody, alias Buffalo Bill, a painting that he will cherish forever. A meeting of the Old World and the New, this is the true story of a magnificent, though highly unlikely, friendship. By Natacha Henry, an award-winning Anglo-French author who lives and works in Paris. She had the idea for this novel on one of her many trips across the United States. This book exists in French as well. Come to Bill & Rosa’s Book Room on December 3rd to hear Natacha talk about her book. https://www.amazon.com/French-Painter-American-Showman-Friendship/dp/2957124076/
A 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
A new edition of Rosa’s Souvenirs de ma vie
- Anna Klumpke était portraitiste américaine parfaitement bilingue née la même année que Buffalo Bill. Elle a donc 24 ans de moins que Rosa Bonheur. Mais entre les deux femmes, une profonde affinité se fait jour. Venue pour quelques semaines, Anna finit par rester. Admirative, enthousiaste et attentive, Anna ne doute pas un instant que le monde puisse être fasciné par le témoignage de Rosa Bonheur. Elle en fera œuvre littéraire et historique. Tout au long de leurs entretiens qui devient Rosa Bonheur, sa vie, son œuvre étoffé puis publié après son décès en 1908 par Anna Klumpke, Rosa Bonheur évoque ses origines, sa formation, sa vie personnelle dont ces années communes avec Nathalie Micas. Elle évoque la reconnaissance officielle – elle est la première artiste femme à être faite Chevalière de la Légion d’honneur -, le succès de ses toiles sur le marché de l’art lui offrant une indépendance financière. Ce livre brosse ainsi le tableau d’une artiste à redécouvrir qui recouvre quasiment tout le XIXe siècle. En 2022 Natacha Henry assure l’édition révisée de ces entretiens.
Author: Rosa Bonheur, Anna Klumpke, Publisher: Phébus
- Rosa Bonheur l’audacieuse un livre pour les adolescents également par Natacha Henry, Editions Albin Michel Jeunesse, 2020.
An Album of her work
Dans les allées du musée d’Orsay, qui ne s’est jamais déjà arrêté devant un des immenses tableaux de chevaux au réalisme troublant ? Pourtant, qui connait réellement Rosa Bonheur ? Cette artiste au joli nom évocateur place le monde vivant et animal au cœur de son travail et de son existence. A travers eux, elle s’engage pour la reconnaissance des animaux et de leur singularité. Son œuvre restitue avec vivacité leur anatomie mais aussi leur psychologie. Cette artiste hors norme et profondément novatrice est encore aujourd’hui inclassable et inspirante ! Cet album, qui accompagne le bicentenaire de la naissance de l’artiste, dévoile la puissance et la richesse d’une œuvre trop peu connue et pourtant célébrée à son époque. Author: Sandrine Andrews, Publisher: Larousse
A Play: Rosa Bonheur, un messie sauvage
Animal painter celebrated during his lifetime on both shores of the Atlantic, fervent humanist. Such was Rosa Bonheur. Thierry Atlan, author and director who imagined this play as a documentary fiction paints a sensitive portrait of this extraordinary artist by giving voice to the women in her life. Rather than giving voice to Rosa herself who expressed so much through images he chose to orchestrate an impressionist portrait with four voices, four cardinal personalities who counted in Rosa’s life. All four roles are entrusted to one actress, Cécile Camp who performs in French. In these stories that are both documented and dreamed up, love of nature, love between women, filiation between mothers and daughters, mutual aid, what has recently been called sorority, are intertwined. To be performed in Auxerre in November.
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
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