Brizo, A Shepherd's Dog
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Arty Fact

More about Brizo, A Shepherd's Dog

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Although she was best-known for her paintings of horses, Rosa Bonheur loved all kinds of animals, including puppers and doggos.

Looking at a Rosa Bonheur painting might feel a bit like watching an episode of "Bojack Horseman." Thankfully, she didn’t paint any pictures of honeydew, but there are plenty of animals, especially dogs and horses. Her paintings of livestock were no laughing stock, though. At an early age, Bonheur’s father saw how talented she was and predicted that she would be even more famous than the illustrious Vigee Le Brun. And he was right. By thirty years old, Bonheur’s animal paintings earned her enough money to purchase her own chateau, where she kept almost a whole ark of wild animals to study, paint, and play.

Unfortunately, the nineteenth century was not an easy time to be a woman, let alone a woman who wanted to be an artist. Like Artemisia Gentileschi before her and many women in between, Bonheur’s father Raimond, a landscape painter himself, taught her how to paint. Despite her easier entry, Bonheur still had to navigate the problems of the contemporary art world. Not all art was created equally – there was a strict hierarchy that dictated the value of paintings, especially when it came to genre. Women were often relegated to only painting the “lesser” genres, like still life and genre paintings. Bonheur, however, did not let this fact get the best of her. She saw an opening in animal paintings and ran with it.

This dashing painting of a female otterhound is one example of Bonheur’s talents that developed despite many odds, but something about this painting just doesn’t add up. The crude quality and crooked handling of the word “Brizo” painted above the dog does not reflect the painstaking efforts that Bonheur poured into her paintings. Scholars suspect that someone added the Brizo, which is the name of an ancient Greek goddess, to the painting after it left Bonheur’s hands. The sentiment makes sense though. Brizo was the protector of sailors and fishermen. Fisherman definitely would’ve appreciated this breed of dog, who helped them by hunting otters who would’ve gotten to the fish before they could.

Bonheur wasn’t the first artist to paint man’s best friend, and she certainly wouldn’t be the last. David Hockney also loved dogs. He had two dachshunds named Stanley and Boodgie, and in 1995, he presented a series of forty-five oil paintings of his favorite, furry friends.



  1. Gibeault, Stephanie. “The Friendly and Clown-like Otterhound is a Rare, Yet Wonderful Companion.” American Kennel Club. 29 March 2017. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  2. Guerrilla Girls. The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
  3. Myers, Nicole. “Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century France.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. September 2008. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  4. National Museum of Women in the Arts. “Rosa Bonheur.” Artist Profiles. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  5. Stock, Jon. “A Dog’s Life.” The Independent. 25 June 1995. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  6. The National Gallery. “Rosa Bonheur.” Paintings. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  7. The Otterhound Club of America. “Home Page.” 2020. Accessed 2 February 2020.
  8. The Wallace Collection. “Brizo, A Shepherd’s Dog.” The Collection.$