Two Young Deer in a Forestc. 1880 by
Bonheur, Rosa 1822-1899
Judging from her numerous paintings of them, deer were among Bonheur's most popular subjects. According to the artist, her own interest in this theme began when she moved to By, where her property backed onto the Fontainebleau Forest, which then had a large deer population. She liked to track deer or lie in wait for them at night so she could observe their customary behavior, later sketching from memory what she had seen. Perhaps the example of Landseer was inspirational, for Bonheur expressed enthusiasm for his famous painting of deer. Her first deer paintings fate from the 1860s, a decade when the French Realist Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) frequently treated this subject. At the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition, she exhibited Deer in Repose (Detroit Institute of Arts) and Family of Deer Crossing the Summit of the Long Rocks (Forest of Fontainebleu, 1865, location unknown). In 1877 she built a pen for a doe and stag she used as models. Over the next twenty years, Bonheur's production of deer paintings was considerable.
The Haggin painting dates from a time when the artist was deeply preoccupied with this subject. Here she creates a feeling of intimacy with her animal subjects by establishing a viewpoint at the eye level of the standing doe. Light filtering through unseen foliage is an effect that especially attracted Bonheur. Since this dappled lighting helps to camouflage the deer, their appearance in this painting is like a quiet moment of revelation, in which we are allowed to observe an alert young deer looking directly out of the painting as well as a more relaxed and older one reclining on the forest floor. By the time Bonheur painted this work, her eyesight was weak, and she had to use spectacles to finish details, yet her careful technique had not diminished. Deer and landscape are captured deftly with delicate, yet visible strokes of paint, while the roughness of the bark is re-created with thick impasto.
Size (inches): 26 x 21 3/4
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Haggin Room