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Great Artists: Volume two by  Jennie Ellis Keysor
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"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."
Victor Hugo

"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."
RENE PEYROL

"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."
ROSA BONHEUR


[Illustration]

ROSA BONHEUR

ROSA BONHEUR

1828—1899.

[149] 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.


[Illustration]

THE HORSE FAIR

While great judges of pictures appreciate and honor her, it is no disparagement to say that her fame to-day is [150] 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.


[Illustration]

OXEN PLOUGHING

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 [153] 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 youthful sports.

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 [154] 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 butcherís shop.

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 [157] 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 [158] 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 [159] 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 amused her- [161] 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 [163] 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 gradually unfolding.


[Illustration]

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 [165] 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."


[Illustration]

"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 [166] 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 employment.

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- [169] 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 work.

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 [170] 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 universal fame.

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 [173] 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 [174] 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.

[177] 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.


[Illustration]

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 [179] 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 miniature.

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 [180] 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 [181] 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 [183] 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.


[Illustration]

DENIZENS OF THE HIGHLANDS



[Illustration]

CHANGING PASTURE



[Illustration]

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 [184] 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 very heart.

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, [185] 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.


[Illustration]

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 chase. The [187] 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 object.

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 genius.

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- [188] 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.


[Illustration]

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 the [189] 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.


[Illustration]

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 [191] 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.


[Illustration]

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 [192] 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.


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