Woman in Art/Chapter 11 - Wikisource, the free online library
Painter to the Queen of Holland
"HE COMES" 1887
Painted by Thérése Schwartze
Holland Artist—Pupil of Gabril Max
Woman as Artist
We cite the painters and sculptors in this division of Woman As Artist, not merely for numbers, for there are many hundreds of women of the brush and spatula who have worked, or are working, toward the advancement of art in America and elsewhere.
Our purpose is to set forth the names and work of a few artists who have already helped in the advancement of art as we know it today; and of a few younger workers who, with purpose and training, are striving toward a fuller appreciation of the soul and method of art expression, which is their own appreciation of nature and humanity.
Nor is it an adequate representation of the artists cited; that would be impossible in a work of limitations. But the hope is that it may be helpful to an understanding of the art development of woman, from her first appearance in connection with art up through this first quarter of the Twentieth Century.
Four Functions In Art. Women Painters In Europe from Margaret van Eyck to Rosa Bonheur.
"All nature is but art unknown to thee,
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood."
Alexander Pope. (1688-1744)
Those lines penned more than two hundred years ago by the old English poet furnish food for thought.
We know that art is the most beautiful way of expressing things; also we know that art is the output of man's best. But we need to remember that man is ever greater than his best; that nature is the output of the Creator who has thus intimated His Spirit and Power, nor exhausted Himself in producing the unthinkable wonder and harmony of cosmos.
The writer was once asked to bring some phase of art to a literary club, immediately came the thought—take art out of literature and what would become of Ruskin, Rosseti, Taine, Browning, the Odyssey and Illiad, of ancient history, sacred and profane? What would become of the classics, of drama, architecture, and the poets of nature and human life? No: Literature would be all out of key if nature were left out, all out of key if art were lacking. Nature's work and man's work are the warp and woof of life, and closely interwoven are the various threads in the fabric we call civilization.
Early art as practiced by primitive folk seems to have been an outline or skeleton gradually clothed upon by fleshly parts and proportions, resembling man or beast. The decorative faculty still exists, marvelously developed in the last half century. It has been a long road from crude marks and symbols to the art of today as expressed in exquisite drawings, modelings, color and proportions of some twentieth century work. Looking at the work of our time, we realize that man has not labored merely for pelf, nor wholly for the pleasure and development of his faculties, nor yet to add a spoke to the wheel of progress, nor to produce something for critics to whet their wit upon, or upon which they may focus wisdom for the benefit of those who have lacked opportunity.
Art has four high functions:
First: At its best, art glorifies a nation or epoch.
Second: It is a measuring rod showing degrees of development and advancement of a people, their customs and achievements.
Third: Art is a means of pleasure and uplift to the beholder, be he educated or ignorant.
Fourth: Art develops the soul of the man or woman who conceives the ideal and works it out.
Every age and nation has its characteristic art expression, but who can name the first woman known for a work of art?
So far as we know, things artistic, from pyramids to pen-point borders of mediaeval manuscript books, man has monopolized. Now and then through the ages, circumstances have singled out a woman as ruler or leader of a nation or movement, but rarely has she been identified with art except as a promoter or model for the assistance of man: a living thing of beauty that challenges his effort and skill.
Thus did their women make the art of Greece famous. So did the exquisite beauty of Simonetta lend time-honored fame to the Madonnas from the soul and brush of Botticelli. From Egypt to Greece, Greece to Rome, Rome to the Renaissance, we find few names of women in the annals of art.
This fact points to another, the slow emancipation of womanhood through the ages.
Those of us who have silver threads among the gold or brown can recall hearing our mothers or grandmothers tell of restrictions put upon woman's efforts toward broader activities than the family circle afforded; and we all know how persistently her embryo powers astonished the world now and again with her pen, for she had freedom of thought if not of action.
The world today realizes that by her promotions of mercy and benevolences, from the time of founding of orphanages and homes for the aged by the motherly dames of Holland, the love and tenderness in the heart of woman seems to have reached the ultimate of human endowment in the service of the Red Cross, Foreign Missions, the Salvation Army, etc.; but until our day the professions were barred to her.
It has been generally conceded that woman had but small part if any in the development of Renaissance art, that it issued from the masculine mind and hand, although models and ideals for the multitude of painters and workers in marble and bronze were largely women; and there must have been many of fine fiber spiritually developed, for that period of art was expressive of sainthood, the virtues, faith, chastity, and humility, that form character, and those subjects were largely represented by woman or they emanated from the refined or religious trend in the painter himself, derived, perhaps, from the influence of his mother.
This fact serves as a connecting link between our present subject, Woman As Artist, and our next in sequence, Motherhood In Art. In the annals of art we find three brothers and a sister working together as children in the quaint old city of Bruge. The parents were fond of the scant art of their time, and that fondness was renewed in each child. The second child, Margaret, is the first woman mentioned by name as using brush and pigment to express her religious enthusiasm and artistic zeal. She was associated with her illustrious brothers, Hubert and Jan van Eyck, in their studies and aims, their church painting and in their school.
It is said that her work on the same triptych with Hubert could not be distinguished from his, but the difference of sex caused her to be considered merely a helper. She did, however, paint a number of pictures most of which have been destroyed or lost. A few are in the National Gallery in London, and prove that she indeed shared the art instinct and ability with her brothers.
Through the Christian era woman has developed various talents, and a careful view shows a sequence of necessities in such developments. For instance, long before art enlisted her powers, we find her heart and mind exercised (as shown in phenomenal cases) in powerful expressions of love, heroism, religion, wordly ambition, learning, benevolence, etc. Art is one of the latest fields she has entered, and the twentieth century the Red Letter period when she began to find her place, her freedom and voice in any department or activity her choice and ability have fitted her for, even to positions of municipal and Federal Government "of the people, for the people, and by the people."
It is interesting to find a few names scattered through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, of women who reached distinction in painting in their time. It is also of interest to note that in nearly every case we will cite that as girls they began painting with their fathers, which counts for heredity and home influence.
Sofonisba Angussola was born in the old walled town Cremona, on the river Po. Its cathedral was five hundred years in building, and the interior has been decorated from time to time by native artists and might be said to represent the various stages of decorative art from the year 1100, as its exterior represents a composite architecture. Beside its slowly growing cathedral, Cremona expressed appreciation of the beautiful in the tones of the wonderful violins, its remarkable pottery, and a number of developing painters.
One of those artists was a direct descendant of the ancient Cremona family from whom the town and the province took the name.
Sofonisba was born to a family of means, in 1533, and was one of six daughters all of whom, in some line of artistry, "adorned the fine arts." She studied under Bernardino Campi, and must have reached a high degree of proficiency in her own country, for in 1560 at the invitation of Philip II she visited the court of Madrid. She painted a portrait of Philip, also a number of court celebrities, and her work was highly commended and praised.
On returning to Italy she painted portraits of Pope Pius IV and a number of Italian princes. Some of her paintings are to be seen in Florence and in Madrid. She painted several fine portraits of herself, one of which is in the portrait gallery in the Uffizi in Florence. A group picture of three of her sisters was in the collection once owned by Lucien Bonaparte, but is now in Berlin.
Sofonisba died in Genoa in 1620, aged eighty-seven years.
Elisabetta Sirani we mention here as a connecting link showing woman's ambition for and influence in art during the century that marked the decline of the Renaissance. Her birthplace was Bologna (1638), another walled city with twelve gates, and also on the river Po. Note her environment. Her father was an artist, a pupil of Guido Reni, Giovanni Andrea Sirani by name. So like was his style to that of his master that after his death Sirani was chosen to finish a number of his unfinished works. Sirani is also represented in one of the 130 churches of Bologna by a painting of St. Martin, and a Crucifixion, both of which are signed by his initials.
Stockholm, Venice, and Florence Galleries possess paintings by Andrea Sirani. Elisabetta, a pupil of her father, thus came in almost direct touch with the glory and teaching of Guido Reni. In 1655, when but seventeen years of age, she had a public exhibition of her paintings that were remarkable for one so young.
Domenichino and the Carracci were also natives of Bologna, and many of their works remaining there were also a means of art education to the young artist. Her subjects were naturally those of the painters of that period. "Madeleini in the Desert," "The Infant Jesus and Saints," "A Sleeping Love," "The Source," "Mary and Joseph Finding Jesus in the Temple," "Martha Reproved by Her Lord," and others of kindred subjects. "The Death of Abel" is in the Turin Gallery, "St. Anthony of Padua" is in Bologna, and "Charity" is in Rome. Elisabetta died in 1665. She left more than 150 works, many of them large, and all carefully executed. Most are in Bologna. She was the prominent one of three artistic sisters.
We cannot afford to overlook any known woman painter in the early centuries of modern times; they are so few and far between that we need them to reckon with in noting the development of woman.
Practically three hundred years after Margaret van Eyck painted with her brothers on the wonderful triptych at Bruge, there was born at Amsterdam a baby christened Rachel Ruysch, her father a professor of astronomy. As a very little child her pastime was drawing, and her earliest efforts at painting flowers interested her parents to the extent of placing her to study with William van Aelst, a skillful painter of flowers. Not long did she paint with him before it was acknowledged that she surpassed him in skill. As Vernet said to Mme. Lebrun when a mere child, "Nature is the best master," so it proved to be to the little Dutch Rachel. Her love for and close observation of flowers and butterflies taught her more than van Aelst could. She married the portrait painter, Jurrian Pool, but even a large family did not prevent her painting, nor diminish her enthusiasm for the work she loved and continued to a ripe old age. Her "Bloomstul" (flower pieces) sold at good prices even for her time, and were popular even beyond the pictures of a rival in the same field of art; she seemed to express the delicate texture and soul of a flower, as well as its form, color, and grace.
Her pictures are to be seen in most European galleries, and in the Rijks Museum at Amsterdam they are proud to own four of them. Her dew drops on rose petals and leaves look as if nature were responsible for them; and you can take it for real pollen on the stamens and a real drop of honey in the corolla where bee and butterfly sip nectar, all are so delicately painted.
Microscopic work seems a characteristic of the Hollanders and Netherlanders.
Anna Dorothee Liszevska was born in Berlin (1722-1782). She studied first with her father and afterward at the Academy of Beaux-Arts in Paris, and on her return was made a member of the Academy of Berlin, and soon after became court painter to Frederick the Great. Painting portraits and historic pictures kept her busy a number of years, painting for both Prussia and Russia. A fine portrait of herself may be seen in Leipzig, and a number of portraits of men and women at Leyde. In the Chateau at Potsdam, also at Sans Souci are many of her pictures, and a remarkably fine convas at Weimar.
In every age there are children of poverty, children of the soil, and occasionally children in the environment of wealth and culture, and from them all, Life is often leading some to the heights of human possibilities, and they know it not. Theirs are souls and minds with unsatisfied longings and aspirations, developing men and women with hungers of mind and spirit. God made them so, and as leaf, flower, or fruit, on woodpath, hillside, or plain, they are where they belong till the spirit moves within and they find themselves, and opportunity opens the gate before them, and they find what they are made for in the thing they can do best.
In 1742 a German maiden was born to the art world at Chur in the Grisons. Her father was an artist in a small way, but large in ambition. That combination led him to perceive and nurture the budding in his child, and he gave her every opportunity in his power for seeing the best in art and for the study of it.
Angelica Kaufman was that child, who became a noted portrait painter. Her work was remarkable for her time, her age, and, too, because it was the work of a woman.
In Milan, Naples, and Rome she painted masterpieces and portraits. At twenty-two her father took her to Venice, where she soon won the friendship of the wife of the English ambassador, Lady Wentworth, and eventually accompanied her to England, where she became a most popular painter. That same year (1768) the Royal Academy was founded with Sir Joshua Reynolds as its first president. The young woman artist was elected one of its original members; for one so young, a woman, and a foreigner, that was a remarkable honor. After two unhappy marriages, Angelica Kaufman devoted her time principally to historic subjects, having her studio in Rome, where she died in 1808.
It is of interest to note the subjects chosen by women whom we shall consider in these pages. Portraits were the vogue, and the classic in subject and composition invited the attempts of many artists. Angelica Kaufman produced a number of canvases that give us some knowledge of her imagination, grace of composition, and color scheme. In the collection of Mrs. Nicholas Brady is an example in point,—"Calypso Entertains Telemachus on her Lyre." For a nymph Calypso is most properly draped in a diaphanous gauze which half conceals yet half reveals the grace and beauty of her form, as, seated on a divan she entertains young Telemachus, let us suppose with words no less than with the dulcet tones of her lyre. The third party of the group is the fawn-colored hound, crouched as for repose, yet with head alert and turned toward his mistress in the attitude of interest and understanding. The picture is well balanced, wall and floor of marble, paneled and enriched with tracings and bas-reliefs of Greek designs. She was not a strong painter at all times, yet her work was ever pleasing.
The eighteenth century was history-making in both Europe and America, but not much of it was recorded on canvas till later, and that little was not from a woman's brush. Religious and social ideals and portraits had greater attraction for both painter and public. "Religion Attended by the Virtues,'" was one of the most famous of Angelica's paintings. "The Vestal Virgin" also shows a delicacy of design and surety of touch. There is a charm in many of her pictures, but the opportunity for comparison with the work of other artists was scant.
More than six hundred engravings were made from her paintings, which proves their popularity. We do well to study the works of former times, but are we justified in condemning such work because it does not tally with that of our time, type, and taste?
Should we despise the Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to an known shore because it was not built and furnished like a modern Leviathan? Never slur the ladder whose rungs have aided your upward climbing.
In the year 1755 a daughter was born to an excellent portrait painter in France. The world knows of her today as Mme. Vigee-Lebrun. In after years her advent was spoken of by M. Charles Lebrun—the great painter of his time—as "the birth of a princess into the kingdom of art and around whose cradle fairies gathered. One gave her beauty; one intellect; another a pencil and palette. One prophesied an unhappy marriage; but the fairy of travel to console her, promised she should carry from court to court, from academy to academy, from Paris to Rome, from St. Petersburg to London, her gayety, her talent, and her easel before which the sovereigns of Europe should pose, and also many heads crowned with genius."
The infant was baptized Elizabeth Louise Vigee. Her father was her teacher through childhood, laying a foundation on which future experience and instruction were to build.
The gifted girl was left an orphan at twelve, and soon thereafter came under the influence of M. Gruize, and later was instructed by Joseph Vernet.
"Nature is the best master," said Vernet to her one day "if you study her you will never have mannerisms."
At fifteen she painted excellent portraits, and at twenty-five was received into full membership of the Academy with the exhibition of "Peace Creating Abundance."
The prophecy concerning her marriage came true. M. Lebrun, her husband, was a wealthy dealer in pictures, but dissolute, cruel, and extravagant, and after a few years she obtained a separation.
No one who has visited the Versailles Gallery can ever forget the portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children, done by the hand and sympathetic spirit of motherhood which was strong in Mme. Lebrun. The little Dauphin standing by the cradle of his baby brother makes it difficult to realize that the innocent child was born to political persecution and death at the age of ten, and all because of the selfish and frivolous propensities of his mother.
Nor had she seemingly the wit to realize that the influence of her extravagant social life caused the sacrifice of her husband Louis XVI, her son, and finally her own head. Thus does one canvas portray a chapter in history, and the character, taste, and extravagance of a woman who made a monetary and moral bankrupt of her family, her country, and her influence as mother and queen.
Two self-portraits of Mme. Lebrun are in the same gallery, the familiar one with the large hat and sparkling eyes, the other as she playfully caresses her little daughter. Her portrait of the Baroness de Crussol is one of her most attractive works, because of its absolute ease and the sweet naturalness of expression. The texture of accessories equals or rivals that of the Flemish masters, as does the color and technique. Velvet, satin, fur, and the wealth of hair escaping from the broad brim of the hat, are exquisite, while the pose—sitting sideways in an upholstered chair, an arm resting on the back—is perfectly natural as she looks over the right shoulder. The parted lips assure you that she is really speaking to you, or to the painter at the easel.
The charm of the picture is, and doubtless was the charm of the Countess. The secret of Mme. Lebrun's success was the fact that she painted characteristics and that illusive something we call charm, that being as individual as eyes and hair, although indescribable; a gift of spirit that enables an artist to catch the spirit of another, her own being the animating genius.
Such was the great gift that signalized Raphael above other fifteenth century painters. In the later centuries we see that such spirit was beginning to brighten and quicken other gifted souls.
That other portion of the fairies' prophecy also came true, for the art of Mme. Lebrun took her to all the capitals of Europe, and seemed to lengthen her life and art to the span of ninety-three years.
Before that span was rounded out, however, another artist was born to add glory to France. We are not told that she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but surely the first thing Rosa Bonheur grasped must have been a crayon. She was a painter from childhood, with the gift that enabled her to catch the spirit of animal life which she really loved, no less than their manifold actions. Parentally and by gift of the genii at her birth, the child was blessed in being la Bonheur, for a sweet disposition and good fortune were life-long blessings to her.
Her mother was of noble birth, her father a born artist, but handicapped by circumstances, disappointed aims and ambitions. Thinking to do better for his family in Paris, he moved there from Bordeaux where their four children were born; but even in Paris he found the same conditions of "little to earn and many to keep." The mother became assistant bread-winner, but the extra strain was too much for one of delicate nature, and her children were left motherless for a time. Fortunately for them, the step-mother was unusual in her interest in and kindness to them.
As a girl, Rosa Bonheur could not be made to do housework or sew as did her sister and her friend Natalie Mecus. She was often the despair of her mother, who would exclaim, "There goes that boy in petticoats." At a first chance she would fly off like a bird escaping its cage, follow a horse, dog, or donkey with its load, or a drayman along the quay, or a boatman dreamily guiding his boat along the sluggish Seine. A bit of brown paper and charcoal served as material. Sketches "while you wait" amused groups of children of assorted sizes, those of her own home often included.
Her father placed her in a private school where he gave drawing lessons for her tuition. Even there the embryo artist made albums of her schoolbooks, amply illustrating the animal kingdom rather than any branch of study they contained.
In her early years Paris had not civilized the Bois de Boulogne as we know it today, and in its margin the young girl made friends and studies of the shy creatures that homed in that nearby forest.
Her first city studio was on the sixth floor of a pension, and to that lofty atelier she conducted a sheep for a model, but by what means she accomplished the exploit is not known.
Her life of seventy-seven years is a most interesting romance, devoted to her one and only love of animals. Here again we find a proof of Goethe's truism:
"You ne'er from heart to heart can speak inspiring
Save your own heart be eloquent."
Seldom have the annals of art chronicled such persistence to an ideal in a child. Her father was her constant teacher and critic and must have taken great satisfaction in the developing genius of his daughter. She spent days at the Louvre copying from the works of Paul Potter and Salvator Rosa; the one a slavish naturalist, the other painting rugged nature, keying the wildness of torrent and rocks to the pitch of his vivid imagination.
Rosa Bonheur's first work to come before the jury of the Salon shows rabbits nibbling carrots; a second was a flock of sheep and goats. Both were accepted, which was a delight to her father and a real encouragement to the nineteen-year-old artist. She was but twenty-one when she received her first medal. Her pictures were not only accepted but sold at fair prices. Even in her teen years, when attempting to add to the family exchequer, her small pictures and sketches brought three and four hundred francs each.
It has been said that she was a naturalist in painting and so she was: so was Paul Potter, but no two pair of eyes see nature exactly alike; no two temperaments understand equally the human or animal they essay to paint. And it is safe to say no other artist has had the love for and confidence in the creatures wherewith the Creator peopled forest, crag, and jungle than Rosa Bonheur had. She made them feel her love, not her mastery.
It has also been said that she was not original, opened no new outlook nor depicted a new horizon or ideal in art. Has any other painter of animals come so near the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah XI-6? Is it not a new outlook to see in the symbolic a reality in the actual because of the larger understanding of love?
Human sympathy means much even to the creatures we cannot understand.
Rosa Bonheur's experiences in Scotland were a joy to her. One realizes how truly she saw and felt when studying the cattle on their native heath and Highland crags. On hills covered with bracken and purple heather the artist gained the freedom, the unaffrighted poise of roving herds of deer, of cattle and sheep, nor had she need to compose an appropriate background for her studies from the North. The woman with her breadth of soul and love of nature breathed deep of the same salt air that swept from the sea over mountain and glen, as it filled the valleys and rising, rising, wreathed the Bens with that magic mist that beautifies the rugged majesty of mountains and softly glorifies the hills.
Was it not a touch of originality to paint the denizens of the Highlands, browsing or startled to attention, as they peer through the mist-laden atmosphere? Was it not fulfilling an ideal that the simple pliant bodies of her lions in repose should lend their heaviness to undulations of ground where they lie? Soft as a kitten they seem, yet their weight is impressive.
Reading the life of Rosa Bonheur as it unfolds her activities, one experiences a personal interest in her successes.
In 1845 her work shown at the Salon received a third medal, and the following year she was awarded the first medal. When we consider the personnel of the committee passing on more than five thousand canvases—for it was the year celebrating the restitution of a republican government after the monarchial interval, and all paintings sent in were accepted—when we consider this, we realize how splendid and satisfying was her work to such artists as Horace Vernet, Delacroix, Corot, Meissonier, Jules Dupre, and Isabey.
Though very quiet in her taste, not caring for ostentation in any form, the bestowal of the medal was an honor prized by the artist; but soon she received from the state a beautiful Sevres vase and an order for a painting. To fill that order Rosa Bonheur gave the world the picture now so familiarly known, "Plowing in the Nevernais." Those are splendid oxen, doing the work they were made for, breaking the hard fallow ground for a crop. Their legs well set on the body, and the feet in the furrow, show the muscular strain and action perfect to the life. She made long and careful studies for the painting, working in the fields from dawn till dark, her friend Natalie being always with her.
She was but twenty-three when "The Haymakers" was exhibited at the Salon of 1849, shortly before the death of her father, and her success was a great satisfaction to them both. It was purchased by the state for the Luxembourg, but at the celebration of the centenary of the artist's birth (1922) it was placed in the Louvre. Said a writer of about that time: "This painting it was that won for her the first medal, the report declaring that the artist in this case could not be decorated." Why? Because she was a woman!
Ten years later—and in that ten years many a noted canvas had been exhibited and sold—a carriage stopped at the embowered Chateau at By, her home on the edge of Fontainebleau Forest, and a lady entered the studio of the now illustrious artist. "As Rosa Bonheur arose from her easel to greet her guest, the Empress Eugénie fastened the red button on her blouse, that created her Chevaliére of the Legion of Honor, and as such greeted her with a kiss, delayed a few moments, and was gone." Then did the woman artist realize that the woman sovereign had pinned the Cross of the Legion of Honor on her working blouse. The Emperor had been hesitating to confer a decoration on a woman when the Empress, having during his absence been left Regent, drove from Fontainebleau nearby and in its bestowal by her hand added to its value.
Mme. Vigee-Lebrun had been admitted to the French Academy eighty years before, but was not decorated, and no woman since has been given the honor.
The next order Rosa Bonheur received from the government was through the Minister of the Interior. The Marquis de Morny sent for her, requesting that she bring her portfolios that they might together discuss the subject.For some time the artist had been studying horses, having in mind for a future work "The Horse Fair." She took those studies to him, requesting that the commission be given for that subject, but his preference and argument was in favor of the "Haymakers," for which he offered twenty thousand francs. But he did agree to her desire to paint "The Horse Fair" first. This was finished and exhibited at the Salon in 1853, and so great was its success that any canvas from the brush of Rosa Bonheur was not required to be passed upon by a jury. So great was the enthusiasm over the huge masterpiece that M. de Morny regretted he had not accepted that subject, and eventually requested the artist to substitute it for "The Haymakers." His offer came too late. The picture had just been sold to a London dealer for forty-nine thousand francs, the artist's own price. After two resales it found its way to America and glorified the private gallery of A. T. Stewart of New York. After the death of Mrs. Stewart, the painting had another monetary advance; Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt made it $53,000 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art became its permanent home.
It was while studying horses and cattle in market, slaughter houses, field and fair, that this dominant artist obtained permission to don male attire for both convenience and protection.
In appreciation of the woman whose achievements honored France and the world's womanhood, a member of the Academy has recorded an anecdote of interest. He writes:
"One morning a purchaser announced himself at the atelier of M. Dubuf (at that time an eminent portrait painter of France). The caller was an Englishman, a collector of Paul Potter canvases. He was anxious to acquire the picture of Mademoiselle Rosa, then on exhibition at the Salon and painted in collaboration. He asked M. Dubuf the price of the picture.
"'I have not the right to reply to your request at the moment,' said M. Dubuf. 'This work happens to have been painted in collaboration. I must ask my friend who painted the bull at what price he values it. I can only dispose of the figure of the woman.'
"'But if you will excuse me, it is the bull which pleases me,' exclaimed the amateur. 'Tell me the name of your collaborator, as I would like to treat with him personally.'
"'Why, then, my dear sir,' replied the other, 'you must see Mlle. Rosa Bonheur.'
"The client then sought out the painter of animals, but the great artist in her turn made objections.
"'I am not the author of the work; I have painted only the bull. The woman is by M. Dubuf'."
To cut the story short, the painting was sold for fifteen thousand francs, of which seven thousand were for the bull, and eight thousand for the portrait of Rosa Bonheur. "It was by way of gallantry to the lady," observed M. Dubuf, "because the bull was worth vastly more."
The world is better for the life of this great artist, simple and natural in her manner of life; unselfish and industrious to a remarkable degree, she accomplished wonders and was greatly beloved by the peasantry among whom she lived.
Another incident of her unselfishness and loyalty: "During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the booming of cannon at Paris resounded at her quiet home at By. German soldiers were quartered about Fontainebleau, and under orders not to disturb the artist or her animals. But war was in the air and silenced the call of art for the time. The neighborhood was cut off from supplies. To her surprise she received a quantity of supplies one day, from the enemy, also a "safe conduct" that she might go to friends without fear. Rosa Bonheur accepted the provisions which she distributed to the peasants about her. The 'safe conduct' she tore into shreds, declaring she could suffer with her countrymen."
When peace was restored to beleaguered France, the artist resumed her painting with even renewed power and vigor. Her lions are beautiful. Power and strength they had, but held in abeyance. "The Lions at Home" and "Lion and Lioness" are represented as if in native haunts, undisturbed and unaffrighted, so perfectly at repose that their soft, pliant, yet huge bodies seem alive. Her delineation of individuality in animal faces is no less remarkable than the texture, shading, and depth of their coats. One can almost see those cat-like paws slowly open and contract as if in memory of prey once attacked in the wilds.
England and America possess many of her finest paintings in private as well as in public galleries. Beside being the largest market for her canvases during the last decade of her life, Rosa Bonheur had another link of friendship that gave her a warm feeling for America.
The constant friend and companion of her childhood, Natalie Micas, died in 1885, leaving the artist very much alone and deeply saddened. Enthusiasm in her work dropped to a low ebb. But a solace came to her in her friendship with the American artist, Anna Klumpke. The new friendship, being for one younger and from another country, proved a beneficial change. Affection and congeniality sprang up that the artist had not thought possible again to her life, and the aftermath of happiness and contentment brought renewed interest in her work. Friendship was essential to this large-hearted artist—as it is to all if they did but know it—and to her new artist friend she gave richly her affection, her home, and of experience that had accumulated throughout a most remarkable life. A life that may now be read from the pen of Anna Klumpke.
At the World's Columbian Fair in Chicago, 1893, in the Fine Arts Building—remembered as the most perfect structure of Greek architecture outside of ancient Greece—the galleries of French painting were eminently attractive. A wall in the larger room was centered with the imposing portrait of president Carnot by Cabanel. It was draped with crimson velvet that has ever adorned governmental France. As stated in a preceding chapter, at the right hung a masterpiece by Bourguereau, "Whisperings of Love." At the left of the portrait another large canvas carried the eye into a depth of Fontainebleau Forest softened by leaf-sheltered atmosphere. The perspective of old trees formed the rendezvous for beautiful deer at home, the alert, watchful stag seemingly startled at your approach. It was the poetry of a woodland scene, not the arbitrary actual of any realistic school. People quite ignorant concerning art crowded to look, as if it were their one opportunity to enjoy the beautiful intimacy of the woods and at the splendid antlered creatures in their native environment.
Rosa Bonheur received many honors from various European nations, but the recognition that touched her most deeply, and was to her of the highest value, was a visit from President Carnot at her Chateau at By, when he made her an Officer in the Legion of Honor, which he conferred because of her contribution to the Chicago World's Fair. It seemed the culmination of the honor of membership in that body, conferred by the Empress Eugenie thirty years before.
Early one May morning in 1899, the writer was at the Salon soon after the hour for opening, so was not surprised at the empty rooms. Wandering into a large gallery, I was confronted by an earnest face wearing a half-repressed smile, the clear blue eyes looking directly at me. Fascinated by the eyes, I advanced within ten feet of the picture before noticing the long palm leaves crossed on the top of the frame and the purple ribbon at the lower corner.
Rosa Bonheur was dead!
Even as I stood stunned by the surprise the great artist, the noble woman, was laid to rest in the Pere La Chaise.
The portrait is by her friend and adopted daughter, Anna Klumpke. The strong, yet kindly face is wreathed by nature's halo of glistening white hair. She has leaned the portfolio of drawings against the chair to make room for her little pet dog, who was ever sure of a welcoming caress.
Only a loving friend and a trained hand could give to the canvas that touch of natural ease that gives the expression of a speaking likeness.
The last painting from the brush of Rosa Bonheur hung near her portrait. She called it "The Steers,"—a group of the animals at rest under a stalwart oak. Though at rest, there was vitality in their very pose. You seem to hear the sigh of contentment from the fine beast standing in the foreground chewing his cud. A breeze seemed fingering the oak leaves, and peace was the message of the canvas.
A painter of unusual strength and grasp of mind and brush, she was emphatically a womanly woman in her home life, in her care and helpfulness to her parents, brothers, and sister, and she had survived them all.
A few words of hers seem to be a creed by which she did her splendid work. She has said:
"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 today, and has been during my whole life, a happiness to me, for it is with persistent work alone that we can approach the unsolved problems 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."