Rosa Bonheur trained as an artist under her father, who encouraged her to draw directly from nature. Disguised as a man, she frequented slaughterhouses, stockyards, and other similar establishments in order to gain a deeper understanding of animal emotions. Bonheur’s resolute dedication led her to become one of the nineteenth century’s foremost animaliers: artists who specialized in the realistic portrayal of animals. She created this intimately sized work as one of many preparatory studies for her monumental painting of the same title. For the preceding year and a half, Bonheur visited a Parisian horse market twice weekly to sketch. This study was most likely completed midway through the process. Its overall composition, although similar to the final version, includes several motifs that the artist later shifted or altogether reconfigured. In 1855 she completed the final painting, which is now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017