KLUMPKE, Anna Elizabeth (1856-1942). Rosa Bonheur: Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre. Paris: Ernest Flammarion, 1909.

$ 370.00

4to., (12 ½ x 9 inches). Half-title, vignette title page. Engraved frontispiece, 6 sepia-toned engraved plates (a bit spotted), numerous full-page and in-text illustrations. Contemporary half brown morocco, brown cloth, the spine in six compartments with five raised bands, gilt-lettered in two, previous owner’s monogram at the foot of the spine (a bit rubbed with minor loss to extremities).

Provenance: Inscribed by the author on the half-title “in Rosa Bonheur’s studio”; bookplate of M. M. Hopkins to front pastedown.

Second edition, first published the previous year. SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR, according to the inscription, in the artist’s studio at By. A profusely illustrated biography of the famous wildlife artist Rosa Bonheur, written by her longtime intimate companion. “Rosa Bonheur was not only the first woman artist to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur, which was established by Napoleon I to honour the most accomplished French citizens, but also the most prominent woman artist in Europe and America of her time, an example for women artists of a younger generation…

“Bonheur made her debut at the Salon in 1841 with two paintings, including ‘Rabbits Nibbling Carrots’ (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux). In 1845 she was awarded a third-class medal and three years later received a first-class medal. In 1849 she exhibited ‘Ploughing at Nivernais’ (Musee Nationale du Chateau de Fontainebleau), which had been commissioned by the government of the Second Republic. This monumental work was said to be inspired by the opening chapter of George Sand’s novel, ‘La Mare au diable.’ Two teams of oxen strain forward as they draw ploughs through the rich red soil, their scale and power overshadowing their four handlers. As an evocation of rural productivity, the painting was welcomed by government officials and ciritics. In 1851 Bonheur began preparations for another ambitious work with twice-weekly visits to the Paris horse market. ‘The Horse Fair’ (1853) depicts a line of percherons at the market at the Boulevard de l’Hopital near Salpetriere. Under a blue sky, a great wheel of rearing and lunging horses surges past as grooms struggle to control them. In the centre of the canvas a rider in blue cap astride one of the horses looks out at the viewer: it has been suggested that this androgynous figure is a self-portrait that Bonheur inserted into the composition as a way of publicly questioning and resisting conventional feminine gender roles…

“In 1860, as Bonheur’s markets in Britain and the USA became well established, she bought an estate with a chateau at By, near the forest of Fontainebleau. There she established a household with Natalie and Mme Micas that she called a ‘domain of perfect friendship.’ This woman-centred household provided the three women with emotional and practical support and was in keeping with Bonheur’s resistance to the traditional constraining roles assigned to women by French law and convention. Although in the later 19th century sexologists would formulate theories of homosexuality and gender variance to explain long-term, highly romanticized relationships between women, earlier in the century such commitments were frequently idealized as a form of elevated and passionate friendship. Bonheur was deeply saddened at the death of Natalie Micas in 1889, but in her later years was consoled by a close association with Anna Klumpke, a young painter who eventually shared her home and studio and who edited and published her memoirs” (Dictionary of Women Artists, vol. 1, pp. 290-291).