Le Labourage Nivernais
Though inspired by the Barbizon painters and a particular pet of Corot's, the young Rosa Bonheur hedged her bets by blending an Academic finish with the working class/domestic animal focus of the Barbizons to create a popular middle-of-the-road style known as the juste milieu. While more politically-oriented artists like Jean-Francois Millet came under fire for the supposedly socialist sentiments expressed in their paintings of the working class, juste milieu artists were able to escape the opprobrium of conservative critics. Though personally radical, Rosa remained professionally centrist and, as a result, at a time when Realist artists like Courbet were under fire, Rosa received a gold medal from the Paris Salon in 1848 for paintings already on display and a 3,000 franc commission from the French government to produce a painting on the subject of ploughing. The result was presented to the Salon in 1849 and became one of her best-known and reproduced paintings, Le Labourage Nivernais, or Ploughing in the Nivernais. Unlike Millet and Courbet's struggling laborers, Bonheur focuses on the meticulous depiction of the strength and determination of the oxen pulling the plow, avoiding any discomforting social commentary about the working classes.