The Horse Fair
Be the first to vote…
ssohail's picture


The Horse Fair is a trademark work by one of our favortie pants-wearing, cig-smoking, all around bad-ass ladies: Rosa Bonheur.

While men like Gustave Courbet and Francois Millet were all about showing the strife of humanity and the trials plus tribulations of the working class (blah blah blah, tell it to the Marxists), Rosa B was drawing on subjects that were thankfully less about socialist misery. She turned instead to the animal kingdom.

This canvas of monumental proportions caused quite a scandal due to its size. During its time, paintings this big were only meant to depict divinities or poignant historical moments. Not a horse fair in the French countryside. But Bonheur was a bonafide animal lover and wouldn’t be stopped.

There might be a symbol in the bucking broncos for Bonheur’s own childhood, when she was called an “unruly” and “disruptive” child by her teachers. Especially after her mother passed away. Rosa might have seen herself in these wild, wild horses. See that brown one on the far right with a red ribbon tied round its tail? That ribbon meant that the horse had a tendency to kick, which is why it was kept far away from the rest of the crew. Sounds like rule-breaker Rosa to me…

See, Bonheur not only burned the night oil making preparatory sketches for this painting and visited slaughterhouses to study the inner workings of equine anatomy. She also visited Parisian horse fairs disguised in manly britches to catch less attention at the almost all-male events. These trips to the fair inspired a spread of stances sure to delight every horse lover. Future PETA people liked it so much in fact, that engraved copies were produced for mass circulation. Inevitably, it became one of the most famous artworks of the 19th century. No horsing around.