Le Fenaison en Auvergne
Though she herself grew up in an apartment in the heart of Paris, Rosa Bonheur became one of the leading chroniclers of the labor of the rural worker, while avoiding the appearance of supporting dangerous political sympathies for the peasant class. At the Exposition Universelle of 1855, she won a gold medal for La Fenaison en Auvergne, or Haymaking in the Auvergne; critic Anatole de LaForge wrote that her entire oeuvre could be called Hymn to Work. Some of her reverence for the working class doubtless stemmed from her fathers involvement with the socialist movement, though Rosa herself remained politically neutral throughout most of her career and was a favored artist of Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie. Her own role as a self-supporting woman not afraid to wear the pants (literally, at a time when it was illegal for a woman to do so) in her family and prosper at a profession largely restricted to men (women were not allowed to attend the cole des Beaux-Arts) may have made her cautious at expressing views that might carry her too far beyond the pale.