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The Great British Art Tour: An artist who got permission from the police to wear men’s clothing | Art




Rosa Happiness was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1822. Her early education was interrupted, she was expelled from several schools until her father, a landscape painter and portrait painter, intervened to begin formally training her as an artist . Her work was first exhibited at the Paris Salon at the age of 19, at a time when women were often excluded from the artistic profession.

Barbouyo illustrates the skillful style of realism of which Bonheur was capable and famous. Completed in 1879, it is a piece similar to its earlier depiction of an otter Brizo, a sheepdog, now in the London Wallace Collection. She studied animal anatomy and osteology in slaughterhouses and at the national veterinary school of Alfort in Paris. For his painting The horse fair (at the National Gallery), she obtained permission from the official police to wear men’s clothing, which enabled her to attend horse markets, draw and study animal movements without attracting the attention to itself.

Barbouyo, 1879, H 48.8 x W 36.9 cm by Rosa Bonheur (18221899)
Barbouyo (H48.8 x W36.9 cm). Photography: Walter White / Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

She cut her hair, chain smoked and wore pants, shirts and ties, and lived alongside his companion and partner Nathalie Micas for over 40 years. As a queer icon comparable to that of England Anne Lister, Bonheur could be described as French Gentleman Jack. After Nathalies’ death in 1889, Bonheur formed a relationship with the American painter Anna Klumpke for the rest of her life. Buried alongside the two women in the Pré Lachaise cemetery in 1899, the common tombstone reads as follows: Friendship is divine affection.

You can see more art from the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery on Art UK here and find out more about museum site.

This series is presented to you in collaboration with UK Art, which brings together the art of nations on a digital platform and tells the stories behind the art. The website features the works of 50,000 artists from more than 3,000 locations, including museums, universities and hospitals, as well as thousands of public sculptures. Discover the art you own here.

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