(Bordeaux, 1822 - 1899, Thomery)
Oil on canvas
Rosa Bonheur was one of the most successful painters in France during the second half of the nineteenth century. Isabella likely bought this painting from a sale of works left in her studio after her death. It was relatively rare for women to become professional painters at the time, but Rosa’s father was a painter and he trained all of his children to be artists, regardless of their gender. Bonheur was best-known for her images of rural French life, particularly animals. Even though this is an unfinished oil sketch, we can see how she captures the texture of the goat’s dark brown coat, soft white underbelly, and a shine in her eyes offset by touches of pink paint. This goat has personality.
Rosa also had personality. She preferred to wear men’s clothing. This was technically illegal in mid-19 th century France, so she received special “cross-dressing permits” from the government because wearing men’s clothing made it easier for her to visit farms and paint animals. The decision to wear trousers was, however, more than just a practicality. She challenged gender roles and towards the end of her life lived fairly openly in a committed relationship with her partner, the American artist Anna Klumpke.