The Horse Fair | Artopia

Rosa Bonheur

A Closer Look

Rosa Bonheur uses gradient value to create the illusion of three-dimensional form in The Horse Fair. Gradient value is a gradual change in the lightness or darkness of a color. Notice how bright the horses are on one side and where their shadows fall. Can you tell what direction the sunlight is coming from? Using value in painted figures makes them look more alive and realistic. Try drawing an object from around your house. Decide on a light source and use gradient value to make it look real.

About the Painting

Rosa Bonheur painted in a style called Realism. Realism was a 19th century art movement in which people, places, and/or things are represented realistically Modernism - a period of experimental developments in art, music, and literature, from around the 1860s to the 1970s. The Horse Fair depicts a horse sale that women generally were not permitted to attend. Bonheur dressed up like a man so that she could sketch horses at the fair without being bothered. This version ofThe Horse Fair is a small study--a practice version of the painting. The final painting is huge--eight feet by sixteen feet.

About the Artist

Rosa Bonheur wanted to be an artist, but since girls were not allowed to go to art school her father, a painter, was her teacher. Soon Bonheur was helping to support her family by selling her paintings. She was the first woman to receive a cross of the Legion of Honor in France. The Empress Eugenie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, personally gave the award to Rosa Bonheur. The empress wanted to show that "genius has no sex."


Write About It

  • Make a list of what you see.
  • How did the artist use the elements and principles of design?
  • What do you think the painting means? How does it make you feel?
  • Select two paintings to compare & contrast.