The boldness of her conceptions 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
When I arrive in Paris I always go first to the Y.M.C.A. headquarters in
the Rue de Treville--that fine building erected and presented to the
Association by Banker Stokes of New York. There's a good table-d'hote
dinner there every day for a franc; then there tare bathrooms and
writing-rooms and reading-rooms, and all are yours if you are a stranger.
The polite Secretary does not look like a Christian: he has a very tight
hair-cut, a Vandyke beard and lists of lodgings that can be had for
twenty, fifteen or ten francs a week. Or, should you be an American
Millionaire and be willing to pay thirty francs a week, the secretary
knows a nice Protestant lady who will rent you her front parlor on the
first floor and serve you coffee each morning without extra charge.
Not being a millionaire, I decided, the last time I was there, on a room
at fifteen francs a week on the fourth floor. A bright young fellow was
called up, duly introduced, and we started out to inspect the quarters.
The house we wanted was in a little side street that leads off the
Boulevard Montmartre. It was a very narrow and plain little street, and I
was somewhat disappointed. Yet it was not a shabby street, for there are
none such in Paris; all was neat and clean, and as I caught sight of a
birdcage hanging in one of the windows and a basket of ferns in another I
was reassured and rang the bell.
The landlady wore a white cap, a winning smile and a big white apron. A
bunch of keys dangling at her belt gave the necessary look of authority.
She was delighted to see me--everybody is glad to see you in Paris--and
she would feel especially honored if I would consent to remain under her
roof. She only rented her rooms to those who were sent to her by her
friends, and among her few dear friends none was so dear as Monsieur ze
Secretaire of ze Young Men Christians.
And so I was shown the room--away up and up and up a dark winding stairway
of stone steps with an iron balustrade. It was a room about the size of a
large Jordan-Marsh drygoods-box.
The only thing that tempted me to stay was the fact that the one window
was made up of little diamond panes set in a leaden sash, and that this
window looked out on a little courtway where a dozen palms and as many
ferns grew lush and green in green tubs and where in the center a fountain
spurted. So a bargain was struck and the landlady went downstairs to find
her husband to send him to the Gare Saint Lazare after my luggage.
What a relief it is to get settled in your own room! It is home and this
is your castle. You can do as you please here; can I not take mine ease in
I took off my coat and hung it on the corner of the high bedpost of the
narrow, little bed and hung my collar and cuffs on the floor; and then
leaned out of the window indulging in a drowsy dream of sweet content.
'Twas a long, dusty ride from Dieppe, but who cares--I was now settled,
with rent paid for a week!
All around the courtway were flower-boxes in the windows; down below, the
fountain cheerfully bubbled and gurgled, and from clear off in the unseen
rumbled the traffic of the great city. And coming from somewhere, as I sat
there, was the shrill warble of a canary. I looked down and around, but
could not see the feathered songster, as the novelists always call a bird.
Then I followed the advice of the Epworth League and looked up, not down,
out, not in, and there directly over my head hung the cage all tied up in
chiffon (I think it was chiffon). I was surprised, for I felt sure it
could not be possible there was a room higher than mine--when I had come
up nine stairways! Then I was more surprised; for just as I looked up, a
woman looked down and our eyes met. We both smiled a foolish smile of
surprise; she dodged in her head and I gazed at the houses opposite with
an interest quite unnecessary.
She was not a very young woman, nor very pretty--in fact, she was rather
plain--but when she leaned out to feed her pet and found a man looking up
at her she proved her divine femininity beyond cavil. Was there ever a
more womanly action? And I said to myself, "She is not handsome--but God
bless her, she is human!"
Details are tiresome--so suffice it to say that next day the birdcage was
lowered that I might divide my apple with Dickie (for he was very fond of
apple). The second day, when the cage was lowered I not only fed Dickie
but wrote a message on the cuttlefish. The third day, there was a note
twisted in the wires of the cage inviting me up to tea.
And I went.
* * * * *
There were four girls living up there in one attic-room. Two of these
girls were Americans, one English and one French. One of the American
girls was round and pink and twenty; the other was older. It was the older
one that owned the bird, and invited me up to tea. She met me at the door,
and we shook hands like old-time friends. I was introduced to the trinity
in a dignified manner, and we were soon chatting in a way that made Dickie
envious, and he sang so loudly that one of the girls covered the cage with
a black apron.
With four girls I felt perfectly safe, and as for the girls there was not
a shadow of a doubt that they were safe, for I am a married man. I knew
they must be nice girls, for they had birds and flower-boxes. I knew they
had flower-boxes, for twice it so happened that they sprinkled the flowers
while I was leaning out of the window wrapped in reverie.
This attic was the most curious room I ever saw. It was large--running
clear across the house. It had four gable-windows, and the ceiling sloped
down on the sides, so there was danger of bumping your head if you played
pussy-wants-a-corner. Each girl had a window that she called her own, and
the chintz curtains, made of chiffon (I think it was chiffon), were tied
back with different-colored ribbons. This big room was divided in the
center by a curtain made of gunny-sack stuff, and this curtain was covered
with pictures such as were never seen on land or sea. The walls were
papered with brown wrapping-paper, tacked up with brass-headed nails, and
this paper was covered with pictures such as were never seen on sea or
The girls were all art students, and when they had nothing else to do they
worked on the walls, I imagined, just as the Israelites did in Jerusalem
years ago. One half of the attic was studio, and this was where the table
was set. The other half of the attic had curious chairs and divans and
four little iron beds enameled in white and gold, and each bed was so
smoothly made up that I asked what they were for. White Pigeon said they
were bric-a-brac--that the Attic Philosophers rolled themselves up in the
rugs on the floor when they wished to sleep; but I have thought since that
White Pigeon was chaffing me.
White Pigeon was the one I saw that first afternoon when I looked up, not
down, out, not in. She was from White Pigeon, Michigan, and from the very
moment I told her I had a cousin living at Coldwater who was a conductor
on the Lake Shore, we were as brother and sister. White Pigeon was thirty
or thirty-five, mebbe; she had some gray hairs mixed in with the brown,
and at times there was a tinge of melancholy in her laugh and a sort of
half-minor key in her voice. I think she had had a Past, but I don't know
Women under thirty seldom know much, unless Fate has been kind and cuffed
them thoroughly, so the little peachblow Americaine did not interest me.
The peachblow was all gone from White Pigeon's cheek, but she was fairly
wise and reasonably good--I'm certain of that. She called herself a
student and spoke of her pictures as "studies," but she had lived in Paris
ten years. Peachblow was her pupil--sent over from Bradford, Pennsylvania,
where her father was a "producer." White Pigeon told me this after I had
drunk five cups of tea and the Anglaise and the Soubrette were doing the
dishes. Peachblow the while was petulantly taking the color out of a
canvas that was a false alarm.
White Pigeon had copied a Correggio in the Louvre nine years before, and
sold the canvas to a rich wagon-maker from South Bend. Then orders came
from South Bend for six more Louvre masterpieces. It took a year to
complete the order and brought White Pigeon a thousand dollars. She kept
on copying and occasionally receiving orders from America; and when no
orders came, potboilers were duly done and sent to worthy Hebrews in Saint
Louis who hold annual Art Receptions and sell at auction paintings painted
by distinguished artists with unpronounceable names, who send a little of
their choice work to Saint Louis, because the people in Saint Louis
appreciate really choice things.
"And the mural decorations--which one of you did those?" I remarked, as a
long pause came stealing in.
"Did you hear what Mr. Littlejourneys asked?" called White Pigeon to the
"No; what was it?"
"He wants to know which one of us decorated the walls!"
"Mr. Littlejourneys meant illumined the walls," jerked Peachblow, over her
Then Anglaise gravely brought a battered box of crayon and told me I must
make a picture somewhere on the wall or ceiling: all the pictures were
made by visitors--no visitor was ever exempt.
I took the crayons and made a picture such as was never seen on land or
sea. Having thus placed myself on record, I began to examine the other
decorations. There were heads and faces, and architectural scraps, trees
and animals, and bits of landscape and ships that pass in the night. Most
of the work was decidedly sketchy, but some of the faces were very good.
Suddenly my eye spied the form of a sleeping dog, a great shaggy Saint
Bernard with head outstretched on his paws, sound asleep. I stopped and
The girls laughed.
"It is only the picture of a dog," said Soubrette.
"I know; but you should pay dog-tax on such a picture--did you draw it?" I
asked White Pigeon.
"Did I! If I could draw like that, would I copy pictures in the Louvre?"
"Well, who drew it?"
"Can't you guess?"
"Of course I can guess. I am a Yankee--I guess Rosa Bonheur."
"Well, you have guessed right."
"Stop joking and tell me who drew the Saint Bernard."
"Madame Rosalie, or Rosa Bonheur, as you call her."
"But she never came here!"
"Yes, she did--once. Soubrette is her great-grandniece, or something."
"Yes, and Madame Bonheur pays my way and keeps me in the Ecole des Beaux
Arts. I'm not ashamed for Monsieur Littlejourneys to know!" said Soubrette
with a pretty pout; "I'm from Lyons, and my mother and Madame Rosalie used
to know each other years ago."
"Will Madame Rosalie, as you call her, ever come here again?"
"Then I'll camp right here till she comes!"
"You might stay a year and then be disappointed."
"Then can't we go to see her?"
"Never; she does not see visitors."
"We might go visit her home," mused Soubrette, after a pause.
"Yes, if she is away," said Anglaise.
"She's away now," said Soubrette; "she went to Rouen yesterday."
"Well, when shall we go?"
* * * * *
And so Soubrette could not think of going when it looked so much like
rain, and Anglaise could not think of going without Soubrette, and
Peachblow was getting nervous about the coming examinations, and must
study, as she knew she would just die if she failed to pass.
"You will anyway--sometime!" said White Pigeon.
"Don't urge her; she may change her mind and go with you," dryly remarked
Anglaise with back towards us as she dusted the mantel.
Then I expressed my regret that the trinity could not go, and White Pigeon
expressed her regret because they had to stay at home. And as we went down
the stairs together we chanted the Kyrie eleison for our small sins,
easing conscience by the mutual confession that we were arrant hypocrites.
"But still," mused White Pigeon, not quite satisfied, "we really did not
tell an untruth--that is, we did not deceive them--they understood--I
wouldn't tell a real whopper, would you?"
"I don't know--I think I did once."
"Tell me about it," said White Pigeon.
But I was saved, for just as we reached the bottom stair there was a
slight jingling of keys, and the landlady came up through the floor with a
big lunch-basket. She pushed the basket into my hands and showering us
with Lombardy French pushed us out of the door, and away we went into the
morning gray, the basket carried between us. The basket had a hinged
cover, and out of one corner emerged the telltale neck of a bottle. It did
not look just right; suppose we should meet some one from Coldwater?
But we did not meet any one from Coldwater. And when we reached the
railway-station we were quite lost in the crowd, for there were dozens of
picnickers all carrying baskets, and from the cover of each basket emerged
the neck of a bottle. We felt quite at home packed away in a Classe Trois
carriage with a chattering party of six High-School botanizing youngsters.
When the guard came to the window, touched his cap, addressing me as Le
Professeur, and asked for the tickets for my family, they all laughed.
Fontainebleau was the fourth stop from Paris. My family scampered out and
away and we followed leisurely after. Fontainebleau is quite smug. There
is a fashionable hotel near the station, before which a fine tall fellow
in uniform parades. He looked at our basket with contempt, and we looked
at him in pity. Just beyond the hotel are smart shops with windows filled
with many-colored trifles to tempt the tourist. The shops gradually grew
smaller and less gay, and residences with high stone walls in front took
their places, and over these walls roses nodded. Then there came a wide
stretch of pasture, and the town of Fontainebleau was left behind.
The sun came out and came out and came out; birds chirruped in the
hedgerows and the daws in the high poplars called and scolded. The mist
still lingered on the distant hills, and we could hear the tinkle of
sheep-bells and the barking of a dog coming out of the nothingness.
White Pigeon wore flat-soled shoes and measured off the paces with an easy
swing. We walked in silence, filled with the rich quiet of country sounds
and country sights. What a relief to get away from noisy, bustling, busy
Paris! God made the country!
All at once the mists seemed to lift from the long range of hills on the
right and revealed the dark background of forest, broken here and there
with jutting rocks and beetling crags. We stopped and sat down on the
bank-side to view the scene. Close up under the shadow of the dark forest
nestled a little white village. Near it was the red-tile roof of an old
mansion, half-lost in the foliage. All around this old mansion I could
make out a string of small buildings or additions to the original chateau.
I looked at White Pigeon and she looked at me.
"Yes; that is the place!" she said.
The sun's rays were growing warmer. I took off my coat and tucked it
through the handle of the basket. White Pigeon took off her jacket to keep
it company, and toting the basket, slung on my cane between us, we moved
on up the gently winding way to the village of By. Everybody was asleep at
By, or else gone on a journey. Soon we came to the old, massive,
moss-covered gateposts that marked the entrance to the mansion. A chain
was stretched across the entrance and we crawled under. The driveway was
partly overgrown with grass, and the place seemed to be taking care of
itself. Half a dozen long-horned Bonnie Brier Bush cows were grazing on
the lawn, their calves with them; and evidently these cows and calves were
the only mowing-machines employed. On this wide-stretching meadow were
various old trees; one elm I saw had fallen split through the center--each
part prostrate, yet growing green.
Close up about the house there was an irregular stone wall and an
ornamental iron gate with a pull-out Brugglesmith bell at one side. We
pulled the bell and were answered by a big shaggy Saint Bernard that came
barking and bouncing around the corner. I thought at first our time had
come. But this giant of a dog only approached within about ten feet, then
lay down on the grass and rolled over three times to show his goodwill. He
got up with a fine, cheery smile shown in the wag of his tail, just as a
little maid unlocked the gate.
"Don't you know that dog?" asked White Pigeon.
"Certainement--he is on the wall of your room."
We were shown into a little reception-parlor, where we were welcomed by a
tall, handsome woman, about White Pigeon's age.
The woman kissed White Pigeon on one cheek, and I afterwards asked White
Pigeon why she didn't turn to me the other, and she said I was a fool.
Then the tall woman went to the door and called up the stairway:
"Antoine, Antoine, guess who it is? It's White Pigeon!"
A man came down the stairs three steps at a time, and took both of White
Pigeon's hands in his, after the hearty manner of a gentleman of France.
Then I was introduced.
Antoine looked at our lunch-basket with the funniest look I ever saw, and
asked what it was.
"Lunch," said White Pigeon; "I can not tell a lie!"
Antoine made wild gesticulations of displeasure, denouncing us in
But White Pigeon explained that we only came on a quiet picnic in search
of ozone and had dropped in to make a little call before we went on up to
the forest. But could we see the horses?
Antoine would be most delighted to show Monsieur Littlejourneys anything
that was within his power. In fact, everything hereabouts was the absolute
property of Monsieur Littlejourneys to do with as he pleased.
He disappeared up the stairway to exchange his slippers for shoes, and the
tall woman went in another direction for her hat. I whispered to White
Pigeon, "Can't we see the studio?"
"Are we from Chicago, that we should seek to prowl through a private
house, when the mistress is away? No; there are partly finished canvases
up there that are sacred."
"Come this way," said Antoine. He led us out through the library, then
the dining-room and through the kitchen.
It is a very comfortable old place, with no extra furniture--the French
know better than to burden themselves with things.
The long line of brick stables seemed made up of a beggarly array of empty
stalls. We stopped at a paddock, and Antoine opened the gate and said,
"There they are!"
"But these are broncos."
"Yes; I believe that is what you call them. Monsieur Bill of Buffalo, New
York, sent them as a present to Madame Rosalie when he was in Paris."
There they were--two ewe-necked cayuses--one a pinto with a wall-eye; the
other a dun with a black line down the back.
I challenged Antoine to saddle them and we would ride. The tall lady took
it in dead earnest, and throwing her arms around Antoine's neck begged him
not to commit suicide.
"And the Percherons--where are they?"
"Goodness! we have no Perches."
"Those that served as models for the 'Horse Fair,' I mean."
White Pigeon took me gently by the sleeve, and turning to the others
apologized for my ignorance, explaining that I did not know the "Marche
aux Chevaux" was painted over forty years ago, and that the models were
all Paris cart-horses.
Antoine called up a little old man, who led out two shaggy little cobs,
and I was told that these were the horses that Madame drove. A roomy,
old-fashioned basket phaeton was backed out; White Pigeon and I stepped in
to try it, and Antoine drew us once around the stable-yard. This is the
only carriage Madame uses. There were doves, and chickens, and turkeys,
and rabbits; and these horses we had seen, with the cows on the lawn, make
up all the animals owned by the greatest of living animal-painters.
Years ago Rosa Bonheur had a stableful of horses and a kennel of dogs and
a park with deer. Many animals were sent as presents. One man forwarded a
lion, and another a brace of tigers, but Madame made haste to present them
to the Zoological Garden at Paris, because the folks at By would not
venture out of their houses--a report having been spread that the lions
"An animal-painter no more wants to own the objects he paints than a
landscape-artist wishes a deed for the mountain he is sketching," said
"Or to marry his model," interposed White Pigeon.
"If you see your model too often, you will lose her," added the Tall Lady.
We bade our friends good-by and trudged on up the hillside to the storied
Forest of Fontainebleau. We sat down on a log and watched the winding
Seine stretching away like a monstrous serpent, away down across the
meadow; just at our feet was the white village of By; beyond was Thomeray,
and off to the left rose the spires of Fontainebleau.
"And who is this Antoine and who is the Tall Lady?" I asked, as White
Pigeon began to unpack the basket.
"It's quite a romance; are you sure you want to hear it?"
"I must hear it."
And so between bites White Pigeon told me the story.
The Tall Lady is a niece of Madame Rosalie's. She was married to an army
officer at Bordeaux when she was sixteen years old. Her husband treated
her shamefully; he beat her and forced her to write begging letters and to
borrow money of her relatives, and then he would take this money and waste
it gambling and in drink. In short, he was a Brute.
Madame Rosalie accidentally heard of all this, and one day went down to
Bordeaux and took the Tall Lady away from the Brute and told him she would
kill him if he followed.
"Did she paint a picture of the Brute?"
"Keep quiet, please!"
She told him she would kill him if he followed, and although she is
usually very gentle I believe she would have kept her word. Well, she
brought the Tall Lady with her to By, and this old woman and this young
woman loved each other very much.
Now, Madame Rosalie had a butler and combination man of business, by name
of Jules Carmonne. He was a painter of some ability and served Madame in
many ways right faithfully. Jules loved the Tall Lady, or said he did, but
she did not care for him. He was near fifty and asthmatic and had watery
eyes. He made things very uncomfortable for the Tall Lady.
One night Jules came to Madame Rosalie in great indignation and said he
could not consent to remain longer on account of the way things were going
on. What was the trouble? Trouble enough, when the Tall Lady was sneaking
out of the house after decent folks were in bed, to meet a strange man
down in the evergreens! Well I guess so!!
How did he know?
Ah, he had followed her. Moreover, he had concealed himself in the
evergreens and waited for them, to make sure.
Yes, and who was the man?
A young rogue of a painter from Fontainebleau named Antoine de
Madame Rosalie took Jules Carmonne at his word. She said she was sorry he
could not stay, but he might go if he wished to, of course. And she paid
him his salary on the spot--with two months more to the end of the year.
The next day Madame Rosalie drove her team of shaggy ponies down to
Fontainebleau and called on the young rogue of an artist. He came out
bareheaded and quaking to where she sat in the phaeton waiting. She
flecked the off pony twice and told him that as Carmonne had left her she
must have a man to help her. Would he come? And she named as salary a sum
about five times what he was then making.
Antoine de Channeville seized the wheel of the phaeton for support, gasped
several gasps, and said he would come.
He was getting barely enough to eat out of his work, anyway, although he
was a very worthy young fellow. And he came.
He and the Tall Lady were married about six months after.
"And about the Brute and--and the divorce!"
"Gracious goodness! How do I know? I guess the Brute died or something;
anyway, Antoine and the Tall Lady are man and wife, and are devoted lovers
besides. They have served Madame Rosalie most loyally for these fifteen
years. They say Madame Rosalie has made her will and has left them the
mansion and everything in it for their ownest own, with a tidy sum besides
to put on interest."
It was four o'clock when we got back to the railroad-station at
Fontainebleau. We missed the train we expected to take, and had an hour to
wait. White Pigeon said she did not care so very much, and I'm sure I
didn't. So we sat down in the bright little waiting-room, and White Pigeon
told me many things about Madame Rosalie and her early life that I had
never known before.
* * * * *
Early in the century there lived in Bordeaux a struggling artist (artists
always struggle, you know) by the name of Raymond Bonheur. He found life a
cruel thing, for bread was high in price and short in weight, and no one
seemed to appreciate art except the folks who had no money to buy. But the
poor can love as well as the rich, and Raymond married. In his nervous
desire for success, Raymond Bonheur said that if he could only have a son
he would teach him how to do it, and the son would achieve the honors that
the world withheld from the father.
So the days came and went, and a son was expected--a firstborn--an heir.
There wasn't anything to be heir to except genius, but there was plenty of
that. The heir was to bear the name of the father--Raymond Bonheur.
Prayers were offered and thanksgivings sung.
The days were fulfilled. The child was born.
The heir was a girl.
Raymond Bonheur cursed wildly and tousled his hair like a bouffe artist.
He swore he had been tricked, trapped, seduced, undone. He would have
bought strong drink, but he had no money, and credit, like hope, was gone.
The little mother cried.
But the baby grew, although it wasn't a very big baby. They named her
Rosa, because the initial was the same as Raymond, but they always called
Then in a year another baby came, and that was a boy. In two years
another, but Raymond never forgave his wife that first offense. He
continued to struggle, trying various styles of pictures and ever hoping
he would yet hit on what the public desired. Mr. Vanderbilt had not yet
made his famous remark about the public, and how could Raymond plagiarize
it in advance?
At last he got money enough to get to Paris--ah, yes, Paris, Paris, there
talent is appreciated!
In Paris another baby was born--it was looked upon as a calamity. The poor
little mother of the four little shivering Bonheurs ceased to struggle.
She lay quite still, and they covered her face with a white sheet and
talked in whispers, and walked on tiptoe, for she was dead.
When an artist can not succeed, he begins to teach art--that is, he shows
others how. Raymond Bonheur put his four children out among kinsmen in
four different places, and became drawing-master in a private school. Rosa
Bonheur was ten years old: a pug-nosed, square-faced little girl in a
linsey-woolsey dress, wooden shoon, with a yellow braid hanging down her
back tied with a shoestring. She could draw--all children can draw--and
the first things children draw are animals.
Her father had taught her a little and laughed at her foolish little lions
and tigers, all duly labeled.
When twelve years of age the good people with whom she lived said she must
learn dressmaking. She should be an artist of the needle. But after some
months she rebelled and, making her way across the city to where her
father was, demanded that he should teach her drawing. Raymond Bonheur
hadn't much will--this controversy proved that--the child mastered, and
the father, who really was an accomplished draftsman, began giving daily
lessons to the girl. Soon they worked together in the Louvre, copying
It was a queer thing to teach a girl art--there were no women artists
then. People laughed to see a little girl with yellow braid mixing paints
and helping her father in the Louvre; others said it wasn't right.
"Let's cut off the braid, and I'll wear boy's clothes and be a boy," said
funny little Rosalie.
Next day, Raymond Bonheur had a close-cropped boy in loose trousers and
blue blouse to help him.
The pictures they copied began to sell. Buyers said the work was strong
and true. Prosperity came that way, and Raymond Bonheur got his four
children together and rented three rooms in a house at One Hundred
Fifty-seven Faubourg Saint Honore.
Rosalie saw that her father had always tried to please the public; she
would please no one but herself. He had tried many forms; she would stick
to one. She would paint animals and nothing else.
When eighteen years old, she painted a picture of rabbits, for the Salon.
The next year she tried again. She made the acquaintance of an honest old
farmer at Villiers and went to live in his household. She painted
pictures of all the livestock he possessed, from rabbits to a Norman
stallion. One of the pictures she then made was that of a favorite Holland
cow. A collector came down from Paris and offered three hundred francs for
"Merciful Jesus!" said the pious farmer; "say nothing, but get the money
quick! The live cow herself isn't worth half that!"
The members of the Bonheur family married, one by one, including the
father. Rosa did not marry: she painted. She discarded all teachers, all
schools; she did not listen to the suggestions of patrons, and even
refused to make pictures to order.
And be it said to her credit, she never has allowed a buyer to dictate the
subject. She followed her own ideas in everything; she wore men's clothes,
and does even unto this day.
When she was twenty-five, the Salon awarded her a gold medal. The
Ministere des Beaux Arts paid her three thousand francs for her "Labourge
Raymond Bonheur grew ill in Eighteen Hundred Forty-nine, but before he
passed out he realized that his daughter, then twenty-seven years old, was
on a level with the greatest masters, living or dead.
She began "The Horse Fair" when twenty-eight. It was the largest canvas
ever attempted by an animal-painter. It was exhibited at the Salon in
Eighteen Hundred Fifty-three, and all the gabble of jealous competitors
was lost in the glorious admiration it excited. It became the rage of
Paris. All the honors the Salon could bestow were heaped upon the young
woman, and by special decision all her work henceforth was declared exempt
from examination by the Jury of Admission. Rosa Bonheur, five feet four,
weighing one hundred twenty pounds, was bigger than the Salon.
But success did not cause her to swerve a hair's breadth from her manner
of work or life. She refused all social invitations, and worked away after
her own method as industriously as ever. When a picture was completed, she
set her price on it and it was sold.
In Eighteen Hundred Sixty she bought this fine old house at By, that she
might work in quiet. Society tried to follow her, and in Eighteen Hundred
Sixty-four the Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenie went to By, and the
Empress pinned to the blue blouse of Rosa Bonheur the Cross of the Legion
of Honor, the first time, I believe, that the distinction was ever
conferred on a woman.
And now at seventy-four she is still in love with life, and while taking a
woman's tender interest in all sweet and gentle things, has yet an
imagination that in its strength and boldness is splendidly masculine.
Rosa Bonheur has received all the honors that man can give. She is rich;
no words of praise that tongue can utter can add to her fame; and she is
loved by all who know her.