Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
"The boldness of her conception is sublime. As a creative artist I place her
first among women, living or dead. And if you ask me why she thus towers above
her fellows, by the majesty of her work silencing every detractor, I will say it
is because she listens to God, and not to man. She is true to self."
"Rosa Bonheur is one of the most distinguished contemporary painters; at the
same time she is by her fascinating personality one of the most interesting.
It was by her passion for Art—the moving power of her life—and by her high
artistic principle and love of Nature alone, that she has acquired the very
distinguished position she occupies to-day."
"The ever-present desire to bring myself nearer to truth, and an incessant
research after simplicity are my two guides. I have never grown tired of study.
It is to-day, and it has been during my whole life a happiness to me, for it is
with persistent work alone that we can approach the unsolvable problem of
ever-changing Nature, the problem which more than any other elevates our soul
and entertains in us thoughts of justice, of goodness, and of charity."
 ON the edge of Fontainebleu Forest, at the little village of By, is a
vine-covered chateau, the residence of Rosa Bonheur, until a few months ago.
Aged though she was, she enjoyed life in a quiet, natural way, surrounded by her
pets and visited occasionally by those she loved to greet. In her last years she
even now and then turned out a picture which showed her old-time spirit.
Her life is most interesting, compassing as it does early years of poverty and
struggle and later years crowned with wealth and fame. Long ago she ceased to
belong to Paris or even to France and passed, in the painting of two pictures,
"The Horse Fair" and "Oxen Ploughing," into that greater
community, the world, where she will ever hold an honored place among its
citizens, all marked by the royal gift of genius.
THE HORSE FAIR
While great judges of pictures appreciate and honor her, it is no disparagement
to say that her fame to-day is
 spreading through the children and youth of our own and other lands even more
than through the critics. Indeed it is quite safe to assert that if a vote were
taken, by the great army of school children everywhere, Rosa Bonheur would stand
their first choice among painters. To my notion, even the blue ribbon of the
Legion of Honor, which the artist so proudly wore, would be enhanced in the
distinction it carried were this vote of our young people appended.
The majority of our great artists have been men, so when we can list a woman,
great, powerful, fully equal to the artistís task, it is to score a triumph for
women everywhere and for our girls, from whom "all wise ladies grow."
On the 22nd of March, 1828, there was born into a humble artistís home in the
prosaic old town of Bordeaux, on the west coast of France, the little girl who
became the famous artist, Rosa Bonheur. For years the father had been an artist.
In the course of his teaching he had had among his pupils a beautiful young
musician with whom he fell in love and whom he later married. Rosa Bonheur was
their first child. When she was born, her father was little more than twenty-two
and the mother still younger. The new family lived with Rosaís maternal
grandparents. Here she grew up in perfect freedom being left much to herself.
The cats and dogs
 were her playfellows. In fact, she was fond of following to its destination any
little animal that came along. Such reckless wandering of so young a child often
caused anxiety to her parents lest she might some time come to harm, but she
always returned invigorated by her adventures.
Two brothers were shortly added to the family circle and a congenial playmate
they had in their elder sister, whose brain outran their own in inventing
Bordeaux was a commercial city where there was little or nothing to encourage an
artist, so it was an easy matter for friends of the Bonheurs to prevail upon
them to remove to Paris where there were enlarged opportunities of every sort.
Perhaps the principal reason why the change of residence was so easily effected
was because the income for the support of a rapidly growing family did not
increase and circumstances made it seem unlikely that it would ever be more. The
delicate mother took from her busy days time to give a few lessons in music, but
even this did not swell the income much.
Hoping to better their circumstances they went to Paris just on the eve of the
Revolution of 1930. Rosa was fond of saying that her youngest sister, Juliette,
was born at the mouth of the cannon. She was born shortly
 after their arrival in Paris and within close range of the hostile guns.
The trying times of a revolution were not the best for the father to gain the
patronage he so much needed. He quite soon, however, obtained a goodly number of
pupils and through the friendship of the scientist, St. Hilaire, he was engaged
to make illustrations for the latterís work on natural history.
Their first home in Paris was over a bath house. Just across the street was a
pork butcherís shop having as its sign a gaudily painted wooden boar. Longing
for the home things of Bordeaux, the homesick little girl used to steal across
the street and caress lovingly this brilliant wooden pig in front of the
There was a boyís school near by and the master, noticing that the child was
restless in her idleness, asked her father to send her with her brothers to his
school. The privilege was gladly accepted by parents and child. Rosa was far
from troubled that she was the only girl in school. Indeed she rather liked it
and she entered with so much spirit into the sports of the boys that they were
very fond of her, forgetting entirely the usual feeling of boys, that girls are
too gentle to have fun with.
At about this time the Bonheurs moved to another part of the city and here
became acquainted with a family by the name of Micas. One member of the family
 was a queer, pinched little girl named Natalie that the children laughed at and
teased with all sorts of taunting questions. It was a strange turn in the wheel
of fortune that in later years made this eccentric little girl Rosa Bonheurís
most trusted friend. For this companion and dear friend more than for herself
she built a villa at Nice where they two could more comfortably spend the winter
when age and infirmities increased.
In 1835, the dear mother, worn out with toil and anxiety, died, leaving the
gifted but impractical father to care for four young children alone. This
appalling task and his deep sorrow stunned him for a time. When he came to
himself he saw no other way to care for the children but to separate them, thus
adding to his grief, already poignant enough, that other sorrow to a parent, a
divided family. Juliette was sent to Bordeaux to a friend of her motherís. The
two brothers were put in one boarding school and Rosa was to be sent to another.
Our artist, at least, did not thrive in her surroundings. Up to this time she
had led the life of a child of nature, wholly unrestrained. Now the bonds of
school life chafed. Her fondness for boyish sports had in no way diminished. Her
carelessness in dress made her an object of ridicule among her prim mates. The
blank pages of her school books were the most attractive to her, for she
scribbled them full of all sorts of sketches
 of animals and even caricatured her teachers on the sly. Taking everything into
consideration, the authorities of the school were not favorably impressed with
their young charge. One day, armed with a sword and followed by some of her
associates, she made a furious attack on the loaded rose bushes in the front
yard. This garden was a choice spot and when the mischief she had done was known
to the authorities her doom was settled. She was sent home to her father.
Imagine if you can the scene of her combat. Her victims, the blushing roses,
dotted all the lawn with their mutilated loveliness and the bushes themselves
looked as forlorn as a city that has been sacked. No wonder those who loved the
garden saw in the rough frolic an unforgivable transgression. As for the young
marauder, she saw only in her act a break for freedom and she went home to her
father with joy.
The most unique experience of her life as this time was her baptism by the
Knights Templar. Her father had become intimately acquainted with the grand
master, who had in his keeping the helmet and breastplate belonging to John of
Molay, who had been burned for his faith in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in
1314. Rosaís father was an enthusiastic Templar and so this young girl was
baptized under the steel arch formed by the uplifted swords of the knights
dressed in full
 regalia. She must have felt after this impressive ceremonial that she was indeed
a knight, armed to kill giants and every other evil thing that was disposed to
oppress the weak and unprotected.
From these lofty heights, if she indulged in them (and what child would not?)
she was sent to Madame Gaindorf to learn to sew. Think of a knight shortly after
the honor of knighthood had been bestowed being compelled to sew! From Rosaís
career at boarding school we can be quite certain that sewing was as little to
her liking as the study of books. Madame Gaindorfís husband was a manufacturer
of percussion caps and Rosa used to steal from the sewing room and turn his
wheel for him, enjoying it much better than sewing "the long white seam."
Madame Brisson, a peculiar woman and a friend of the childís father, next took
the girl in hand. She was a painter of heraldic designs and she set Rosa to
painting the broad field of color on the devices. Thus for a while she earned a
few cents to help in the struggle with poverty. Rosa Bonheur, in speaking of
these paltry earnings, said that she never could think of them without emotion,
they were so very small.
The father was busy with his lessons, so he could give his daughter little
attention. She had, however, the full freedom of the large studio and often
her-  self, in his absence with drawing and color work. One day when he came home he
was surprised to find that she had drawn very cleverly a bunch of cherries. He
examined the sketch carefully and then, as if a great question had suddenly
solved itself, he said, "Thatís fine! In the future you must work seriously and
I myself will give you lessons." Then and there began the training which the
father gave his daughter and which was of the highest quality to have served her
so well in the masterful work of her later life. It must have been with a light
heart that the father set out on his task of instructing his daughter after he
had become fully convinced that the work of an artist was her true field. What
though he was ridiculed for making a painter out of a girl? He was convinced
that he had seen aright his daughterís bent and he never swerved in his
determination to give her the best preparation that he could give. She went with
him everywhere dressed in boyís clothes. Where they were well known, she went by
the name of the Little Hussar.
The father had failed in his life work as an artist. The daily needs of his
family hung too heavily upon him for such achievement. He had often expressed
himself as hoping for a son who would one day realize his own youthful
ambitions. No son was destined to accomplish this, but he lived to see his
daughter Rosa far
 exceed his most extravagant hopes. In her younger romping days, the grandfather
had said to her mother, "You think you have a daughter! What a mistake! Rosa is
a boy in petticoats." The discerning mother had written the father concerning
their oldest child, "I cannot say what Rosa will be, but of this I am certain,
she will be no ordinary woman." The developing artist was now proving every day
the truth of both prophecies, the first in that her powerful work had never been
equaled by that of any woman and the second in the great genius which was
A NOBLE CHARGER
Rosa made such rapid progress in her drawing, under the instruction of her
father, that she was able to give lessons to the young Russian princess,
Czartorisky, who lived close by. Rosa Bonheur herself, referring to these
lessons, tells us that both teacher and pupil spent much of the time, supposably
devoted to drawing lessons, sliding on the polished floor of the studio.
She had now advanced so well in her work that she began copying the great
pictures in the Louvre. Here she worked early and late, stopping only long
enough to eat a frugal lunch. So well did she do this work that her copies
brought good prices in the picture market. Thus at last she was able to
substantially aid her father in caring for the family. She valued highly the
training which this copying gave her. She expressed herself
 concerning it thus, "I cannot repeat sufficiently to young beginners who wish to
adopt the hard life of the artist, to do as I have done: stock their brains with
studies after the old masters. It is the real grammar of art and time thus
employed will be profitable to the end of their careers."
"ON THE ALERT"
In 1845, the father married again and a home was established once more. Rosa now
pursued her art by making studies from nature in the environs and the
undeveloped parks of Paris. When we realize how quickly animals change their
positions and their moods, we will see how difficult a matter it is to catch and
retain the various impressions necessary to complete a good copy of an animal.
In this very quickness and retentiveness lay a great part of Rosa Bonheurís
genius. There was another part, too, that came from closed and unending study.
The bodily structure of her subjects she knew as thoroughly as does the skillful
physician the human body he treats. To perfect herself in this line of study she
used to visit many of the slaughter houses of Paris. She was undaunted by the
unpleasant sights that greeted her and the occasional coarse jest made at her
expense. She did not lack champions, however, even among the coarse workmen of
these unattractive places. At one place it was "the scalder and dresser of
calvesí heads," a great brawny fellow
 whose protection meant much. Occasionally he invited her to his humble home to
partake, with wife and children, of his homely but clean meal, and she grew to
respect and admire the sturdy manhood that towered above an unattractive
To her exact and unremitting study she attributed whatever power she had. In
accounting for Rosa Bonheurís strength in her art we must never forget the
quality of her fatherís instruction, which was far in advance of his time. He
believed that the real helpful work in drawing was from nature. "Drawing," he
used to say "is not writing. . . . . To reproduce an intricate engraving is but
a matter to time and patience; but it proves a hundred times more valuable to
the student to copy the most simple object in space." To this teaching is
largely due "that sureness of eye and hand, and that remarkable recollection of
form—her most artistic features."
In 1845, she made her first exhibit in the French Salon. It was a simple study
of rabbits which she had drawn from life—two of her own pets nibbling a carrot.
About this time she went to see her sister who still lived in Bordeaux. While
here she visited Landes, that marshy section of south-western France where the
shepherds tend their flocks on stilts. To the ordinary observer there was her
only weary stretches of
marsh-  land, but Rosa Bonheur found a charm in it all from which she drew many
sketches. The peasants watched the young artist closely and not without malice.
They feared that she might bewitch their sheep and cattle, for what else could a
young woman with pencil and paper wish to do among their homely scenes? Thus
thought the ignorant peasants and some boys even went so far as to throw stones
at the artist while she sought the protection of some women washing clothes
close at hand.
The following year she went to Auvergne. Through the new wife of her father,
Rosa had heard much of the picturesque mountains of Auvergne and the hardy
cattle of Salers, then unknown outside this their native district. This region,
in the heart of France, lacks no features of wild landscape beauty. There are
wide, clear streams, rugged mountains, great stretches of heather and, in the
distance, the blue lines which mark the hill boundaries of DŰme and Cantal. The
color no less than the variety of contour delighted our artist and in the two
months of her sojourn here she stored up in her mind images enough for years of
It was now 1848, and Rosa Bonheurís work in the Salon was drawn largely from her
sketches in Auvergne as it had been the previous year. Her work this year
attracted special attention, for it hung side by side with
 work by her father, her two brothers and her sister Juliette, making as it were,
a family exhibit. It was a great sight to the student of hereditary genius—an
entire family represented, all notable in their lines and one at least of
In 1847, Rosa Bonheur took her first prize, a gold medal of the third class. She
had to claim this in person. To cultivate her independence her father sent her
by herself to get her medal. When the Director of the Fine Arts presented it in
the kingís name, she said very simply, "Thank the king very much for me, and
deign to add that I intend to do better next time." Three years later she took
the first prize, so we see she kept her word with the king. These honors were
welcomed by all her friends but most of all by her rapidly ageing father, who
now saw distinctly in her the fulfillment of his hopes. Famous men like Vernet
and Delaroche praised her and sought her acquaintance.
At this time she again met Natalie Micas and from this date they were intimate
friends and companions. Natalie attended to all sorts of details for the artist
and perhaps made up for some of the lack of training in the artistís early
years, a time when she missed what every young girl needs so much, a motherís
watchful guidance. The father was the very pattern of disorder, if such a model
were needed in the world. The studio was a
 clutter of all sorts of things. Into this confused mass he frequently flung the
small coins paid him, so that when the household purse ran low there was still
sure to be money in the house, even though it were little indeed. Natalie lived
with Rosa Bonheur until her death in 1889. Her loss was a great blow to the
artist, who confessed that never a day went by that she did not think lovingly
of her dear friend.
In the early happy years when the young family had gathered about the evening
lamp to read, two writers had impressed deeply one member of the circle at least
and that was our artist. The stories of George Sand and Walter Scott were life
itself almost to her and many passages in them she unconsciously illustrated in
the course of her art life.
A country scene from the introductory chapter of one of George Sandís stories
furnished the subject of one of her very strongest works, "Oxen
Ploughing." For years the novelistís picture had lived in her mind and now a
trip to Nevers, or Nivernais, gave reality to her long ago received impression
and the painting was worked out. It is another poem of the fields wrought with
the subtle touch of one who knew and loved life and nature. In it she sang the
old song of labor with the same spirit that Millet sounded in his
"Gleaners" and Breton in his "Song of the Lark." Two teams of
 six oxen each draw the deep bread-producing furrow, while strong hands steady
the plows. The rising ground just ahead tells that added strength will be needed
on the up-hill. In the distance, on the opposite side among leafy trees, nestles
the cottage that shelters the wife and children of the laborer.
This picture was painted for the Salon exhibit of 1849 and completed in that
year. The work had to be done away from home, as the house in which they then
lived had no suitable studio. The last years had been easier for the father, who
had been appointed director of drawing in a young ladiesí school. His health,
however, began to fail and while his daughter was engaged on this masterpiece he
became so delicate that he could not go out. We can imagine his interest in the
work and how he questioned her regarding its progress from day to day. When it
was finished, he rallied sufficiently to be able to go and see it. He examined
closely its every detail and seemed satisfied. It seemed now as though life
could yield him no additional boon. He returned home serene—crowned as it were
with peace. He went out no more and in a few days he said good-bye to a world
that for the most of his life he had buffeted unsuccessfully.
On her fatherís death, Rosa was appointed to his place in the school. Here she
gave instruction until her removal to By.
 The great success of "Oxen Ploughing" created in our artist an ambition
to do something still better. With this thought in her mind she conceived the
matchless horse picture so well known the world over as "The Horse Fair."
It was a giant work which she undertook and no one could realize it more
thoroughly than Rosa Bonheur. Her friends in Paris put their finest horses at
her disposal to use as models but this was not enough. She must be where she
could study the animals continually and so she visited the horse markets and
sketched all sorts of fine horses in all sorts of positions. Her womanís attire
was a hindrance to her, often subjecting her to coarse jokes and always
attracting to her unwelcome attention. To avoid these things she adopted the
costume of a man, which became her well and saved her many annoyances. For a
year and a half this laborious preparatory work continued and then she felt
ready to make her picture.
COMING FROM THE FAIR
Her horses were to be two-thirds life size. This of course required an immense
canvas, the largest ever used by any animal painter up to that time. She was
obliged almost constantly to make use of a ladder in reaching the various parts,
and so she continued to wear male attire. As she worked at the great expanse of
canvas she used laughingly to call it her "Parthenon Frieze." She little
realized how her work in the end would justify
 the lofty title she gave it, for in it was all the variety and majesty of
action, all the truth to life in its wonderful namesake. Like this namesake,
too, it was the chief work of a powerful master.
At last the gigantic work was completed, ready for the Salon of 1853. It was the
subject par excellence of all art discussion. While there were those who
claimed that its size was against it, the majority agreed in admiring it beyond
all modern pictures. On account of the great work, the artist was given the
privilege of henceforth exhibiting in the Salon without examination, from the
Jury of Admission,—a rare honor even to a great artist.
Shortly after it was shown in the Salon, she loaned it to an exhibition in
Ghent, where it brought forth only words of praise. Indeed so delighted where
the Belgians with the artistís generosity in loaning the picture for their
enjoyment that they sent her an exquisite cameo reproduction of the picture in
Napoleon III. Had admired the work very much. The Director of Fine Arts, wishing
to please the king, applied to the artist to buy it. He was unable to offer what
she considered the picture worth and so the purchase was not effected.
The exhibition in Ghent had closed and the canvas was about to be sent home,
when quite unexpectedly
 Mr. Gambart, a picture dealer, offered her 40,000 francs for it. She accepted
the proposition and the picture was put on exhibition first in England and then
in America. It was finally bought by a wealthy man in New York for 300,000
francs and it now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum. Both the artist and the
picture dealer were enriched in gold. What shall we say for the thousands who
gazed upon its splendid workmanship and of our own dear land that thus gained a
real art treasure? Only this be our boast, that instead of money we gained in
the immortal part—in ideas and in possessing a grand expression of Rosa
Bonheurís better self.
For Mr. Gambart she painted a smaller replica of the picture, which to-day hangs
in the National Gallery in London. During the next four years Rosa Bonheur made
two notable trips, the one to the Pyrenees and the other to England and
Scotland. She had long wished to visit the romantic and rugged scenery of the
mountains dividing Spain and France. It was as delightful as she had anticipated
and she pushed on over the Spanish border where her friends feared for her in
her venturesomeness lest she be attacked by free-booters that were known to
infest these remote regions. She returned, however, from her sketching tours
unmindful of the dangers she had braved and conscious only of a great number of
beautiful pictures of the rugged scenery
 which she carried in her artistís mind. Her "Crossing the Pyrenees"
recalls this part of her life.
So famous had "The Horse Fair" made her in Great Britain that there was
an urgent call for her to visit the people to whom she had given so much
pleasure. Then she remembered those nights of enchantment when, with the others
of the family circle, she had listened to Walter Scottís wonderful tales, and
she longed more for "the land of the thistle" than for "the land of the rose."
With happy memories and keenest anticipation she accepted Mr. and Mrs. Gambartís
invitation and started for England in the late summer of 1856. She crossed the
channel without the usual sea-sickness and soon, in company with her friends,
she was enjoying the lovely scenes of England. Windsor, with its beautiful parts
and wild-eyed deer, made a lasting impression upon her and she wrote home of its
beauties. Hers, however, was a nature more fully in touch with the rugged
aspects of the great world, and so we find her occasionally describing the
scenery of England as tame. Sherwood Forest, Robin Hoodís stronghold in days
gone by, was quite to her liking.
When, however, she crossed the line into Scotland, her heart was stirred as that
of one who plants his foot, after long absence, upon his native heath. Here were
mirror-like lakes, bold mountain peaks, tumbling
 streams, ragged crags and great expanses of heather, reddish purple in autumn
and nut-brown in spring. Over all, the shifting clouds chased each other in
silvery silence the livelong day, giving no sign of their warfare beyond a few
sluggish raindrops—just enough to dampen clothes and make us wonder how long it
will continue. Such droves of wild-horned cattle! Such flocks of meditative
sheep feeding on the jagged steeps! We need nothing more than the names of Rosa
Bonheurís pictures drawn from the Scottish scenes to know how deeply she was
affected by what she saw. Here are some of them—
"Denizens of the Highlands," "Skye Ponies," "Changing
Pasture," "A Scottish Raid," "Crossing a Loch," and never were
the beauties of Scotland more tellingly embalmed by pencil and paint than in the
hands of this artist.
DENIZENS OF THE HIGHLANDS
A SCOTTISH RAID
Were it possible for those we love to re-inhabit their former places, we would
gladly call back Sir Walter Scott to welcome to many-halled Abbotsford Rosa
Bonheur. What a meeting it would have been! There would have been no mincing on
the ladyís part about visiting stables and kennels, or riding in the swift chase
over rocky slopes and heather-carpeted downs. Our wish is but a dream and the
artist, as humble you or I, could but gaze upon that vacant chair, those unused
books, those voiceless halls, Maidaís mound in the
 garden there and the sweetly-flowing Tweed just yonder, and turn her to the
melancholy pleasure of visiting Sir Walterís grave in Dryburgh Abbey.
On her return to Paris, her growing fame more than ever pressed upon her with
its social duties. In the great city of the Seine she had ever led a nomadic
life. Now with wealth and patronage she looked lovingly toward a home of her own
in some quiet and inspiring neighborhood. What wonder that in her search for
this desirable combination her artist soul turned to the splendid old forest of
Fontainebleu beside which gathered that little colony of artists known as the
Barzibon School, those men who loved nature more than academic rules and models
and who dared stand out and express independently the thought planted of God.
For a moment let us recall a few of their names: Corot, with his misty dreamy
landscapes; Millet, with his breadwinning peasants; Roseau, with his gnarled and
grand old trees. Rosa Bonheur, too, belonged to this nature-loving body of
artists even though we may scarcely class her as of their school. They lived at
Barzibon, on the outskirts of the forest; she lived at By, nearer still to its
The chateau she purchased was a rambling old house which she made still more
rambling by adding a large studio. Here was room for her pets and her models,
 quite different from those cramped quarters when she had kept pet sheep and
goats on the terrace up five flights of stairs. Here was exemption from the
formalities of social life, here was quiet if not absolute solitude. Beyond, but
well in sight, lay the magnificent belt of the Seine. In this choice spot one
might observe the moods of nature, lulled to rest by quiet breezes and warm
sunshine or lashed to fury by the wild storm as it tore through the giant trees
and the jagged rocks of the old forest. Truly the little girl to whom the joys
of life came so sparingly in her youthful days had now come among pleasant
places to live out the maturity and age of her powers.
SHEEP OF BERRY
"Here," she said, "I live the life of a peasant." She rose early and retired
with the glowing day. Her food and recreations were of the simplest sort. Here
she received the friends dear to her heart, never those who hunted her out on
account of her fame, for she would not be lionized, and here until 1889 she
enjoyed the sisterly companionship of Natalie Micas.
At the time Rosa Bonheur bought her chateau at By, Fontainebleu palace, near at
hand, was the favorite residence of Napoleon III. and the charming Empress
Eugenie. The emperor had given the artist the privilege of hunting in the forest
and she often availed herself of the kind permission, for she was fond of the
 Empress had occasionally met her while she was sketching in the woods. She had
watched with appreciative eye the steady hand as she sketched some chosen
She was quick to see Rosa Bonheurís power and she urged the emperor to bestow
upon her the badge of the Legion of Honor. He was favorable to the matter but
his councillors objected, saying that it was an extreme thing to do, since up to
that time no woman had been named for this distinguished honor on account of her
Thus the matter rested for a time. In 1865, it was necessary for Napoleon to go
to Algiers and Eugenie was made regent during his absence. Then she remembered
her desire for Rosa Bonheur and, without hesitancy, she nominated the artist for
the Legion of Honor. She secured the badge, or decoration, of the famous order
and promised herself a great pleasure in surprising the artist, who was totally
unconscious of the effort being made in her behalf. One June morning, quite
unexpectedly, the Empress appeared in the studio of Rosa Bonheur. After
exchanging cordial greetings, she approached the artist saying, "I have here a
little jewel which I bring to you on the part of the Emperor, who authorized me
to avail myself of the last day of my regency to announce to you your nomination
to the Legion of Honor." She then pinned on to Rosa
Bon-  heurís velvet jacket the beautiful white cross suspended from a blue ribbon,
which is the badge of this honored body and one of the most valued decorations
of the world. Now indeed she was a knight, fulfilling the prophecy, if such we
may call it, of those nomad days when, half in sport, half in earnest, she had
been baptized beneath the glittering swords of the Templars.
STRAIT OF BALLACHULESH, SCOTLAND
She afterwards received many such honors. They came from Belgium, Spain,
Portugal and far-away Mexico. Of them all, however, the one that delighted her
most was when President Carnot, in 1893, made her an Officer in the Legion of
Honor, thus justifying the bit of strategy used by Empress Eugenie nearly thirty
years before. As Americans, it is especially interesting to us that this last
and crowing honor was bestowed on account of the work she sent to our Colombian
Exposition at Chicago.
The placid life of Rosa Bonheur at By was sadly interrupted by the war of 1870,
for she was an earnest patriot. While the sound of cannon in her beloved Paris
could reach her, even though muffled by distance, her hand was idle, paralyzed
as it were, by the peril which threatened her country. She read a little but her
every thought was on the war and the shifting fortunes of France. To her
surprise one day she received a quantity of supplies and "a safe conduct" from
 enemy. She accepted the former that she might help the neighboring peasants who
gathered about her. The "safe conductí she tore in shreds, saying that she could
suffer with her countrymen.
The return of peace was quite as welcome to her as to those who had been under
fire. Again she took up her old work, in the old spirit. She now made the study
of lions and tigers her especial work. Everyone who knows her pictures,
"Lions at Home," "An Old Monarch," "Repose," knows how
eminently successful she was in this line. The power of these kingly beasts
attracted her and she hardly fell short of nature itself in showing them to us
in all their tremendous strength and beauty. The lions she used as models seemed
to love her and yield to her. For years she had as a pet one of these models
named Nero. At one time, when she was obliged to leave home, she sent him away
where he could be properly cared for. On her return she found him sick,
evidently pining for her. In a few days he died with his head on her arm.
AN OLD MONARCH
Another pair of lions, which she kept at By, used to terrify the neighbors by
their roaring. They were not so gentle as her former models and she gave them to
the Jardin des Plantes of Paris, greatly to the relief of the people
living near the artist. These were the models for her much admired picture,
"Lions at Home." It is
 interesting to know that the cubs in the picture were copied after some young
lions that were taken from their mother when they were but a few days old and
given to a dog to raise, as if they were her own puppies. The foster mother was
often mystified at their rough ways but she never gave them up until they could
care for themselves.
LIONS AT HOME
Long before, when the artist removed to By, she gave up teaching in the girlsí
school where her father had taught before her. Exhibiting regularly at the
Salon, too, she found to be too great a strain and so she gave that up likewise.
Before her death, her menagerie, which had held at various times a great variety
of birds and of wild and tame animals, was reduced to a few horses and ponies,
together with some chamois from the Alps. In her latter years she was fond of
driving in a little pony chaise and she preferred to handle the reins herself.
She still wore the costume of a man about her work and when inspecting her
animals, but never in public. It was on account of its convenience and not to be
whimsical that she clung to this costume.
When little more than seventy-one years old and when the world was
congratulating itself upon her good health, the news came from across the waters
of her death, May 25, 1899. She had known the deep sorrows and
 the lofty joys of a woman of genius. Ere she went from us, sorrow and joy had
crowned her with hair as white as snow and with a serene expression of
countenance which was her lifeís own best record. Though she lived long, we
cannot suppress the wish that she might have lived still more years to enjoy the
fruition of her transcendent powers and to gladden us, her debtors, with an
occasional picture from her magic hand.