Painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899) led a highly nontraditional life, especially for a woman in the nineteenth century. She kept lions as pets, was awarded the Legion of Honor by Empress Eugénie, and befriended “Buffalo Bill” Cody. She became a painter at a time when women were often only reluctantly educated as artists. Her unconventional artistic work habits, including visiting slaughterhouses to sketch an animal’s anatomy and wearing men’s clothing to gain access to places like a horse fair, where women were not allowed, helped her become one of the most beloved female painters of her time. Among the artworks discussed are The Horse Fair and Ploughing in the Nivernais. Along with her life story are a list of museums that house her work, a bibliography, and an index.
In a historically rich chronicle of artist Rosa Bonheur's life, Macdonald presents her subject as an adventurous, principled, and deeply committed artist. Bonheur's paintings are featured throughout the narrative, providing readers with a vivid sense of her art style and fascination with animal subjects. Memorable details convey the lengths to which Bonheur went for her art, including visiting a slaughterhouse to observe animal anatomy and gaining permission from the Paris police to dress as a man in order to attend a horse fair. The book also places Bonheur's contributions into the broader context of art history, including the rise of Impressionism and its usurpation of naturalism. Ages 8 12.