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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rosa Bonheur's Plowing in the Nivernais (1849) : the circumstances of success Browne, Julia Margaret


Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), the mid-nineteenth century French painter of rural landscapes, has been heroically constructed by twentieth century studies as an independent and strong-willed 'woman artist. This personality attributed to Bonheur has also been conflated with her success as an artist in the Second Empire. This thesis will focus on Rosa Bonheur's painting Plowing in the Nivernais at the Salon of 1849, the occasion of her first major critical acclaim, with regard to the issues of landscape, gender and patronage in the political context of 1848 and 1849. The main interest of this study will be to suggest historically based reasons for her reception at the Salon of 1849, thereby deconstructing the myth of the 'woman artist' as responsible for her success. Chapter One will look at the chief aspects of Bonheur's mythic identity, investigating discrepancies between these and the case of politically active women in 1848 and 1849. While discussing the history of these Republican years, reasons for Bonheur’s large commission will be examined in regard to her prior career, personal political connections, to painting category of landscape and to the market. Chapter Two will deal with the historical and political significance of Nivernais as a location and with the means of representation of this rural landscape in terms of a rural myth. Chapter Three will focus on critical reception of the painting at the Salon of 1849 with attention to two particular ways in which the discourse (amongst other factors) causes the painting to function positively at this particular historical moment in France.

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