Wild Boars in the Snow

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Rosa Bonheur, Wild Boars in the Snow, 1870

By ELLIE SCHNEIDER

Rosa Bonheur was the most famous female realist artist. Her fame started in France where she grew up, but as her work changed, so did her popularity. The French female became more popular in Britain and America as her works lost their French touch. She was criticized for her English style and was pronounced a deserter. The Goncourt brothers insulted her by calling her “that Jewess,” showing the rise in Anti-Semitism in Europe. The original title of the painting is Sangliers dans la Neige, but I chose to stick with the English version Wild Boars in the Snow to show her shift from French popularity to English and American fame. Bonheur persevered and continued to paint with her muse. She painted all types of animals. She mostly focused on horses, cows, sheep, and other farm animals. Eventually, she expanded to exotic creatures like lions and wild boars. She studied the anatomy of the animals because accuracy was extremely important to her. Bonheur often went to butcher shops or zoos to watch and sketch animals before she started her final works. Due to her sometime-messy workspace, she started dressing like a man. She had to get a special permit to do so. Bonheur said her preferred clothing choice “was necessitated by her going to paint in the rough all-male atmosphere of the Paris slaughterhouses as Gericault had done.” Bonheur made sacrifices so she could paint as a passion and not as a job.

Out of all of her works, Wild Boars in the Snow caught my eye. It surprised me that the painting is about the size of the average piece of paper, and yet it contains many intricate details. I liked the color scheme and the warm glow given by the sunset, even though the snow would generally give a cold feeling. The warm colors seem to have an ombré effect that divides the painting in three parts horizontally: the snow, the forest and the sky. The pathways also seems to divide the painting vertically. The foremost boar seems to be the focal point and leader of the pack even though he is off-center. I think he is the focal point because the other boars blend in with the trees. He is also the first boar on the pathway, so he appears to lead the way. I do not feel that the painting has a religious, social or philosophical agenda. I think Bonheur just enjoyed painting animals, since they appear in most of her works. 

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