Rosalie Bonheur (known as Rosa Bonheur) was born in 1822 in Bordeaux, France. She was trained to be an artist by her father, who also operated an art school and was an artist himself. Rosa would practice painting by copying pictures in the Louvre and observing animals, her models in most of her paintings. When her family moved into a more rural area in the country, Rosa found it much easier to observe cows, goats, sheep, and horses, and she even went in slaughter houses. She felt more comfortable around animals in male clothing, so she was granted permission by the government to cross-dress. During the winter, because she could not work outside, she would bring the animals in the house. She had a sheep, a goat, and a squirrel, plus numerous rabbits, ducks, chickens, and snails, and at one point, she also had an otter.
When she was 19, Rosa entered a show to see how her two paintings, Deux lapins and Chevres et moutons would do. They ended up doing pretty well, so she moved on to World Fairs.
In 1948, Rosa painted her first important work, called Ploughing in Nivernais, which was put in the Luxembourg Gallery in Paris by the French government. Then, one year later, Rosa stopped running her father's art school, for he had passed away. So, she put much of her effort into painting, creating The Horse Fair in 1853, which made her famous, and Weaning the Calves in 1887, both of which are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was in 1853 that she was awarded the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honor by Napolean III, but she didn't receive it until many years later.
In 1896, women were finally allowed into art schools, but Rosa had already made it on her own. She painted all the way up to her death, which occurred on May 25, 1899, when she was 77 years old.
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