Picture above: Rosa Bonheur. Photograph by Disdéri
Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1853, oil on canvas, 244.5 x 506.7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Art is a Tyrant tells the remarkable tale of the French female painter, Rosa Bonheur. In 19th-century France, Rosa Bonheur was utterly unique. An artist whose unparalleled animal portraits and scenes of rural life brought her international success and critical acclaim, here was a woman who shunned feminine pursuits, who brazenly wore trousers, whose most intimate relationships were with other women, and whose home constituted a menagerie where visitors might find anything from lions to polar bears. Made Chevalier, then Officier de la Légion d’Honneur for the arts – France’s highest order of civilian merit – Rosa’s reputation seemed assured. But her happiness in later years was interrupted by tragedy before her artistic legacy gradually faded.
Following her acclaimed biography of the artist Suzanne Valadon, Catherine Hewitt now examines anew the life and career of a true one-off in this inspiring evocation of a life lived against the rules.
Catherine Hewitt’s academic career began with a passion for 19th-century French art, literature and social history. After being awarded her PhD, she set out on her career in biography. Based on meticulous research, Catherine’s writing seeks to lift history out of the dusty annals of academia and bring its characters and events to life for the 21st-century reader. Her writing introduces real people, telling their stories in intimate detail and enabling readers to share their successes and frustrations. As well as writing, Catherine lectures and runs workshops on 19th-century French art, literature and social history, always seeking to share her enthusiasm for French history and culture.