Arts & Equitainment: The Horse Fair

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The Horse Fair


Portrait of Rosa Bonheur by Edouard Louis Dubufe 

In honor of International Woman’s Day (yesterday, March 8) Counter-Canter Culture is featuring French artist Rosa Bonheur and her great equestrian painting, The Horse Fair.


One of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s best known paintings, The Horse Fair was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1853 and later gifted to the Met by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1887. In between it was exhibited throughout Europe and America to great acclaim earning Bonheur an audience with Queen Victoria. According to Mary Blume of the The New York Times, this did not go down particularly well with the French who sniffed that, “since her adoption by the English who have made her fortune, we have seen none of her paintings in the French exhibitions and not even in sales.” Still says Blume, “The Empress Eugenie came to Bonheur’s chateau, By in Thomery, near Fontainebleau, to pin the Legion d’Honneur on her sturdy breast, an event commemorated in a tune by Bizet, and in 1894 the president of the republic raised her to the rank of Officier, the first woman to be so honored.”

Bonheur painted The Horse Fair from a series of sketches she had made at the Paris horse market on the boulevard de l’Hôpital. She attended the market twice weekly for a year and a half, dressed as a man to receive less attention from the horse dealers and buyers. Of course she was criticized for this.

Her response? Wikipedia notes:  “On her wearing of trousers, she said at the time that her choice of attire was simply practical as it facilitated her work with animals: ‘I was forced to recognize that the clothing of my sex was a constant bother. That is why I decided to solicit the authorization to wear men’s clothing from the prefect of police. But the suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else. The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me…’ ”

The theme for International Woman’s Day 2014 is Inspiring Change. At Counter-Canter Culture, we think adopting the attitude that: “The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me…” is a great place to start.


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