Monday, May 4, 2009

Bonheur Ram Studies

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) set the standard for oil studies of animals.

These studies of rams are masterpieces of texture, lighting, and expression. For her larger works, like The Horse Fair, she did innumerable studies in oil and charcoal.

Wiki on Rosa Bonheur


S. Weasel said...

Holy CRAP those are good!

I'm surrounded by sheep and trying to convince myself I'd be happy as a painter-of-sheep. Now I'm all humbled and stuff.

colin said...

At first glance my brain connected these with the horse sketches you've been posting, and I thought "WOW, he's getting really good!"

Not that you aren't! ;-) But those really are amazing!

James Gurney said...

I wish I could paint animals like this! What do you all think: are these life studies, or was she waiting outside the butcher shop with her paintbox?

The rams in the top group look pretty lifelike, but I'm not sure about some of the ones in the second picture. It would be a lot easier to accomplish if they weren't moving.

S. Weasel said...

Hm. I'm going to say from life. Not that a Nineteenth Century painter would be squeamish, but I think they sheer sheep before they butcher them.

There are six rams in my front garden (it's where they live when they aren't, ummm, working). I'm finding them slow-moving, placid animals. Pretty much.

If she were to lay out her initial sketch in turps and brown, she could be assured of seeing them move around into the same pose repeatedly. Especially if they were in an enclosure. She could work on them all at once.

Just guessing, though.

I've just checked her out online (thank you for teaching me her name). I find, as often happens, I like her studies far more than her finished pieces. Difference in taste between us and the Victorians, I guess. They liked them some polish.

jeff said...

Rosa Bonheur was a one of the best painters of genre scenes with animals.
The horse fair painting is her master piece and is worth the trip to the Met in New York City to see it. It's huge about 25 or 20 feet long I think.

From what I have read about her when she was younger she would dress up as a man to go and draw at farms and markets and slaughterhouses as women were not supposed to the kind of painting she did.

This is one hell of a painting!
Rosa Bonheur: Forest at Fontainebleauas is this one:
Rosa Bonheur: Le Labourage Nivernais: Le Sombrage

jeff said...

I can't say enough about this painter, thanks for posting this Jim, she's one of my all time favorites.

Unknown said...

I would say so!

Victor said...

Rosa Bonheur was the greatest woman painter, ever, in my opinion. She was probably the greatest painter of animals, male or female, too.

I wish I could have watched her work because it's amazing how resolved and nuanced her sketches were, considering how much animals move.

I'm sure she had a astounding knowledge of mammalian anatomy, as she grew up around quite a menagerie. I think I read that her family lived in a second or third floor apartment and would carry their pet sheep up and down the stairs.


amazing! i remember seeing her huge paintings at the NY Met and just stood there admiring her masterful work.

Anonymous said...

Wow, those are just fantastic!
I would have to agree that they were most likely from life. but that sure is a funny thought...

Anonymous said...
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jeff said...

I forgot to add that she was quite the character, she wore pants and smoked in public. Used colorful language and could hold her own with the "boys" so to speak.

She was good friends with Buffalo Bill. Was a champion of animal rights before there was such a thing.

Her father, the painter Raymond Bonheur, who (like Charles Willson Peale) set up an artistic workshop in which four of his children (Rosa, Auguste, Isidore, and Juliette) could be trained. In those days women could not get training. She was the most talented of her siblings.

She was true original and I'm sure she was a load of fun at parties.

Haitao Su said...

His animal paintings are beautiful, thank Gurney for your recommendation. I also like too the dinosaur you paints, very much.

Frank-Joseph said...

My great aunt studied under Rosa Bonheur, so Bonheur has been inspiration to me since I could remember. My parents inherited two gorgeous sketches, signed by the artist, of two cows near a watering hole...and some rams. I'll try and have my parents take a photo, and post a link here.

frank gressie said...

wow these are very good!

Rien Poortvliet (dutch illustrator) is also very good in animals. In one of his books he talks about, when walking through a forest, he would study a fox, or a deer, not sketching but only looking, and then he went home and draw it from mind. He never used photo's.
here is a thread i created on with some works of the man:

Unknown said...

I love, love Rosa's works. At my little phone booth studio her 'Study of Dogs' hangs right next to Norman Rockwell's study for Yankee Doodle Dandy; two of my all time favorites.
I do believe these were done from life, and as cruel as it sounds, a rope or 2 may have been used just to have the animal at least face the right direction- don't a few human studies of the more difficult poses show a rope around the wrist?
But as I write this, I'm wondering if this Study of Dogs (from the Musee D'Orsay) is from life or 'from beyond'. It's hard to tell and sad to think about!

My Pen Name said...

remember that 19th century painters were often very well trained in drawing from memory - some could look at a statue for five minutes, walk into another room and draw the statue down to the last hair.
American Artist had a great article about it a few years ago. Lecoq was the great memory drawing teacher - his book is long out of print though.

My Pen Name said...

don't a few human studies of the more difficult poses show a rope around the wrist?",Usually just to hold the arms when the muscles simple could not do it.

however, I attended a recent boegeugoue lecture by a Graydon Parish @ Grand Central - and Parish showed the 'poses' and final bougeraua painting - the dynamic poses were not held by the model, even with ropes - it was only a general approximation.

Unknown said...

Wow!!! I never heard of her and thanks for the post Jim..and also thanks for the links jeff f