Rosa Bonheur

On this date in 1822 (some sources give March 22), painter Rosa Bonheur was born in Bordeaux, France, to a nominally Jewish family. All four children in the family became artists. Inspired by George Sand, Rosa began dressing in boys' clothes in order to study animal anatomy, a sartorial habit of freedom she never abandoned. She visited slaughterhouses and also sketched at the horse market. Her painting, The Horse Fair, 1853, made her an international celebrity. Rosa Bonheur, the 19th century's most admired woman artist, was known for her unsentimental and realistic renderings of animals. She was exhibited regularly at Paris salons, and became the first woman to receive the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. Bonheur was considered an agnostic by peers. D. 1899.

“Though I make this concession as to my body, my philosophical belief remains unaltered.”

—Rosa Bonheur, consenting to a religious funeral in order to be buried near a friend. (Cited by Joseph McCabe, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920.)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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