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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Rosa Bonheur

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She dresses very simply, always wearing black, brown, or gray, with a close fitting jacket over a plain skirt. When she accepts a social invitation, which is very rare, she adorns her dress with a lace collar, but without other ornament. Her working dress is usually a long gray linen or blue flannel blouse, reaching nearly from head to foot. She has learned that the conventional tight dress of women is not conducive to great mental or physical power. She is small in stature, with dainty hands and feet, blue eyes, and a noble and intelligent face.

She is an indefatigable worker, rising usually at six in the morning, and painting throughout the day.

So busy is she that she seldom permits herself any amusements. On one occasion she had tickets sent her for the theatre. She worked till the carriage was announced. "Je suis prete," said Rosa, and went to the play in her working dress. A daintily gloved man in the box next to hers looked over in disdain, and finally went into the vestibule and found the manager.

"Who is this woman in the box next to mine?" he said, in a rage. "She's in an old calico dress, covered with paint and oil. The odor is terrible. Turn her out. If you do not, I will never enter your theatre again."

The manager went to the box, and returning, informed him that it was the great painter.

"Rosa Bonheur!" he gasped. "Who'd have thought it? Make my apology to her. I dare not enter her presence again."

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She usually walks at the twilight, often thinking out new subjects for her brush, at that quiet hour. She said to a friend: "I have been a faithful student since I was ten years old. I have copied no master. I have studied Nature, and expressed to the best of my ability the ideas and feelings with which she has inspired me. Art is an absorbent--a tyrant. It demands heart, brain, soul, body, the entireness of the votary. Nothing less will win its highest favor. I wed art. It is my husband, my world, my life-dream, the air I breathe. I know nothing else, feel nothing else, think nothing else, My soul finds in it the most complete satisfaction.... I have no taste for general society,--no interest in its frivolities. I only seek to be known through my works. If the world feel and understand them, I have succeeded.... If I had got up a convention to debate the question of my ability to paint 'Marche au Chevaux' [The Horse Fair], for which England paid me forty thousand francs, the decision would have been against me. I felt the power within me to paint; I cultivated it, and have produced works that have won the favorable verdicts of the great judges. I have no patience with women who ask permission to think!"

For years she lived in Rue d'Assas, a retired street half made up of gardens. Here she had one of the most beautiful studios of Paris, the room lighted from the ceiling, the walls covered with paintings, with here and there old armor, tapestry, hats, cloaks, sandals, and skins of tigers, leopards, foxes, and oxen on the floor. One Friday, the day on which she received guests, one of her friends, coming earlier than usual, found her fast asleep on her favorite skin, that of a magnificent ox, with stuffed head and spreading horns. She had come in tired from the School of Design, and had thrown herself down to rest. Usually after greeting her friends she would say, "Allow me to resume my brush; we can talk just as well together." For those who have any great work to do in this worlds there is little time for visiting; interruptions cannot be permitted. No wonder Carlyle groaned when some person had taken two hours of his time. He could better have spared money to the visitor.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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