Isidore-Jules Bonheur

Isidore-Jules Bonheur (French, 1827-1901) was born in Bordeaux to an extraordinarily artistic family; his mother a music teacher and his father, Raymond, a painter and drawing-master.  Bonheur's older sister, Rosa, perhaps the more famous of the two siblings, attracted considerable acclaim during her lifetime for the naturalism and realism of her animal paintings and, to a lesser extent, her sculpture.

Bonheur exhibited great artistic aptitude from an early age and was tutored in drawing and painting by his father.  In 1849, at the age of 22, he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but had, in fact, already made his debut at the Salon of 1848.  Bonheur's initial foray into the art world was through the medium of painting.  While he regularly exhibited at the Salon, he began to exhibit both paintings and bronzes at the Royal Academy in London and eventually won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

As a painter, Bonheur's public appeal was extremely limited. His popularity and success increased tremendously, though, when he turned his hand to animalier sculpture.  Sheep and cattle became the main subjects of Bonheur's bronzes, obviously influenced by his sister Rosa's own affection and masterful representations of these animals.  Bonheur's fascination with cattle and his ability to capture, not only these animals essence and character but also their anatomical correctness.  Bonheur's animal sculptures were cast by his brother-in-law, Hippolyte Peyrol, one of the premier founders of the time.

While Bonheur proved his capability in capturing the placid attitude of cows and the aggressive restlessness of bulls, he was equally adept at modelling sheep, dogs and later in his career, equestrian figures.  Collectors of his period enthusiastically admired his animalier sculptures.  The popularity of his sculptures remains high today.


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