An Insider’s Guide to the Home of Rosa Bonheur

Brand-new to our 2021 Renaissance itinerary is a visit to the home of Rosa Bonheur – the most celebrated female artist of the 19th Century. On this truly fascinating tour, guests will have the opportunity to discover her studio that remains completely untouched since her death in 1899…

The village of Montbouy on the Canal de Briare

Who was Rosa Bonheur?

Born in 1822 in Bordeaux, Rosa Bonheur was a talented painter from a very young age – having been taught by her painter father, who encouraged her talent and artistry. Her love for animals was made apparent through her artwork, but she often frequented slaughter houses and dissected animals to get a better understanding of their anatomy!

Her most famous painting, ‘The Horse Fair’– depicting a Parisian horse fair in 1855, quickly rose Bonheur to fame and printed copies of this piece can be found in homes until today; whilst the original can been seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Living a particularly unconventional lifestyle for her time, Bonheur enjoyed a cropped haircut, she smoked, and shared her home with lifelong friend, Nathalie Micas. Trousers and blouses were a common feature in her appearance, and in fact – Bonheur even received permission from local authorities to wear trousers when researching for The Horse Fair, so that she would not be disturbed in such masculine environments. She said “As far as males go, I only like the bulls I paint.”

Rosa Bonheur became the first female artist to be awarded the Legion of Honour in 1865. Thirty years later, she was the first ever woman to become an Officer of the Legion of Honour!

The Home of Rosa Bonheur

An American Connection: Painting Buffalo Bill

Thanks to her love of horses, Bonheur developed a fascination with the American West. So much so, that when Col. William F. Cody travelled to Paris for the Universal Exposition in 1889, with his world-famous show, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West – it soon became a high point in her life which she spoke about frequently until her death.

During this time, it was not Claude Monet, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec or Vincent Van Gogh that was seen as the most famous painter living in Europe, it was in fact Rosa Bonheur! And her visits to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show encouraged a new enthusiasm for including images of people once again, with sketches and paintings of Native Americans, buffalo and American mustangs which can be seen during the tour. In a glass-doored armoire located adjacent to her studio, you’ll also find an authentic costume of Rocky Bear – a chief of the Oglala Sioux tribe, which was given to her by Buffalo Bill.

Cody was soon invited to the home of Rosa Bonheur to create one of her masterpieces – a portrait of Buffalo Bill on his horse, Tucker, which guests will see as part of their tour. The portrait was gifted to him as a thank you for allowing Bonheur to continue painting at his Wild West shows. It was such a beloved gift, that when his home in North Platte caught fire, he telegrammed his wife, Louisa, to “Save Rosa Bonheur’s picture, and the house may go up in blazes.”

Buffalo Bill painting by Rosa Bonheur

Exploring the Home of Rosa Bonheur

Since her death on the 25th May, 1899, time appears to have stood still in the studio within the home of Rosa Bonheur. Visitors will get not only witness her painting style with both complete and unfinished works, but they’ll also have the opportunity to see her unusual fashion choices for women of her time. Her embroidered blouse, her hat, and her boots share a space with her sketchbooks and notes – and even her cigarette butts!  These archives offer a raw, uninterrupted outlook on her life in an unprecedented way.

Rosa Bonheur paintings
Rosa Bonheur paintings

Ready to Explore the Home of Rosa Bonheur?

Guests aboard luxury hotel barge, Renaissance, will have the opportunity to visit the home of Rosa Bonheur as part of their week-long Classic Cruise  through the Loire Valley. For more information on this itinerary and the rest of our collection of luxury hotel barge cruises, why not order a free copy of our brochure today, speak to a member of our team directly using our handy Contact Form. Alternatively, send us an email at s[email protected]

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