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Horse Fair

Rosa Bonheur, 1853-55
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Bonheur explains her donning of masculine attire:

"I strongly blame women who renounce their customary attire in the desire to make themselves pass for men…If I had found that trousers suited my sex, I would have completely gotten rid of my skirts, but this is not the case….If, then, you see me dressed as I am, it is not at all with the aim of making myself interesting, as all too many women have tried, but simply in order to facilitate my work. Remember that at a certain period I spent whole days in the slaughterhouses. Indeed, you have to love your art in order to live in pools of blood…I was also fascinate with horses, and where better can one study these animals than at the fairs…? I had no alternative but to realize that the garments of my own sex were a total nuisance. That is why I decided to ask the Prefect of Police for the authorization to wear masculine clothing. But the costume I am wearing is my working outfit, nothing else. The remarks of fools have never bothered me.…"

Cited in Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” in Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 173-4.

Related Artworks:

Study, 1853. Drawing (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

About the Artist

Born: Bordeaux, 16 March 1822
Died: Thomery, 25 May 1899
Nationality: French