I was chided by a reader the other day because I said " each generation has produced men who had great brushwork". I explained in the comment that I used men in the broader sense as meaning mankind. Whenever the subject of women painters comes up I always champion Rosa Bonheur. I far prefer her to Georgia O'Keefe or Judy Chicago. She gets my vote for best woman painter. There have been many fine women painters, but only Bonheur I think can be called the greatedt at what she did. No one has surpassed her in animal painting, in my opinion. For instance, Celia Beaux was a great portrait painter but I don't think her the equal of Sargent. Although better known, I don't think Georgia O'Keefe was the equal of Maynard Dixon in capturing the feel of the southwest. Because she was the best at what she did, I argue she was the greatest woman painter. However this is a matter of subjective opinion, of course. You may prefer another. The painting above of the Horse Fair from the Met is a good example of why I think this. It has to be seen to be believed. It is 16 feet wide!
Her command of anatomy and the texture of fur has yet to be surpassed. She also painted with a dignity and elegance that places her far above the usual animal illustrators of today.
Born in Bordeaux, France in 1822, her father and all of her siblings were artists. Darwin used the family as an example of inherited genius. She was the most famous of women artists in the 19th century and is somewhat overlooked today. Although her family was originally Jewish, they were members of a sect of Christian Socialists called St. Simonists. The St. Simonists were early believers in education and full rights for women.
Bonheur did dissection and studied animal anatomy in the slaughterhouses and the veterinarian schools in Paris. She drew and painted animals as a specialty from her early teens. She was shown repeatedly at the salon and was a favorite of Queen Victoria.
Bonheur has received attention from the gay community because she was a lesbian, but not so much for her art. She dressed in men's clothing ,saying that it suited her work and smoked cigarettes, considered scandalous at the time. Despite the Victorians reputation for prudery, she was extremely popular and engravings of her art sold very well and made her a household name in the era.
So, here is an example of fine, broad brushwork by a consummate master of the form.
Gee I hope I'm off the hook.
Thanks to artrenewwal.org for some of these images.