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A Match Made In Paris

FAMED FRENCH ARTIST ROSA BONHEUR’S FASCINATION WITH BUFFALO BILLAND HIS WILD WEST INSPIRED A FRIENDSHIP AND ARTWORK FOR THE AGES.

Steve Friesen

Like many Europeans of her era, Rosa Bonheur was fascinated with the American West. She studied George Catlin’s sketches, corresponded with Albert Bierstadt, and collected photos from William Henry Jackson. When Buffalo Bill’s Wild West arrived for its performances in Paris in 1889, it became a high point of her life. For the next decade, she spoke frequently about it, and when she died in 1899 the newspapers mentioned her connection to Buffalo Bill.

At the time of Buffalo Bill’s visit, the most famous living painter in Europe was not Claude Monet, Henri Toulouse- Lautrec or even Vincent Van Gogh. It was Rosa Bonheur, who was known for her animal paintings. The Horse Fair, the title of which describes what it depicted, was considered her best work and helped earn her a place in the French Legion of Honor…the first woman so honored. She even had a menagerie of animal “models,” both living and dead, at her chateau near Paris. But it was her visits to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West that t inspired her to produce some of her only images of people.

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October 2019