In Hewitt’s third commanding biography of an overlooked French woman...she nearly purrs as she recounts with enriching detail and narrative drive Bonheur’s absolute dedication to her work and her independence, vividly establishing the tumultuous social and political contexts in which Bonheur overcame entrenched misogyny and negative views of lesbianism ... Hewitt’s rousing biography will propel a resurgence of appreciation for Bonheur and her achievements.
... a portrait of a brave, defiant and pleasingly eccentric soul ... At more than 400 pages, this book is more lumbering ox than gambolling lamb. Historical background is not so much sketched as scored in. 'Oh no, here we go,' you think as Hewitt ploughs through another digression ... Her phrasing is often misjudged or laboured ... One wants more on 19th-century taste and the sensibility that was so moved by calves, piglets and the loyal sheepdog Brizo. As it is, Rosa Bonheur strikes the modern reader and gallery-goer as an artist of middling talent and an admirable force of character who made a fortune painting rather mawkish moo-cows.
Hewitt...searches for radical credentials in Bonheur’s domestic life ... Bonheur spent much of her life cross-dressing ... Such an apparently non‑binary performance is a gift to the biographer, who is always under pressure to illustrate the contemporary resonance of her subject. But Hewitt never really pushes further into the muddling contradictions of Bonheur’s life and times. Here was a cross-dressing lesbian who liked to opine that other women should stick to frocks and an animal painter who insisted on the dignity of her dumb subjects while simultaneously making a fortune out of them. Not all of which is quite apparent from this diligently researched, beautifully produced and insistently sympathetic biography.