Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of the 19th century, was a queer cross-dresser who honored what she called the “androgyne Christ.” She had two consecutive long-term relationships with women. She died on this date (May 25) in 1899.
Born in France in 1822, Bonheur received much acclaim in her lifetime for her paintings of animals. In recent years she has been celebrated as a queer pioneer, feminist icon, and role model for the LGBT community. Her achievements grew out of an unusual religious upbringing in the proto-feminist Saint-Simonian sect, and the queer Christian ideals that she expressed in adulthood. Bonheur’s gender-bending lifestyle has been covered extensively by scholars, but her spirituality has received much less attention.
Her parents raised her in Saint-Simonianism, a French utopian Christian-socialist movement that advocated equality for women and prophesied the coming of a female messiah. Her father was an artist and an ardent apostle for the Saint-Simonian religion. Bonheur writes a whole chapter about growing up as a Saint-Simonian in the book “Rosa Bonheur: The Artist’s (Auto)biography,” which she wrote with her companion Anna Klumpke.
The Saint-Simonian concept of gender equality paved the way for Bonheur’s father to train her as a painter… and for her own defiance of gender norms. As she put it, “To his doctrines I owe my great and glorious ambition for the sex to which I proudly belong and whose independence I shall defend until my dying day.”
read more: Jesus in Love Blog
Well, isn’t the rainbow part of the story, as well as a major gay symbol? What other couples would you expect? Kittredge Cherry at Jesus in Love blog has some wonderful shots of a painting by Paul Richmond, depicting well -known gay coples, and same sex animal pairs, enjoying married bliss on the decks, with prominent foes of equality drowning in the sea.
He was moved to create the work after California’s Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage last fall. Demonstrations across the United States in support of marriage equality inspired Richmond to paint a wickedly funny satire on the classic Bible story.In Genesis 6-9, God commands Noah to gather his family and heterosexual pairs of animals into a boat to rescue them from the global flood sent to destroy human evil and the violence of nature. After the flood, a rainbow appears as a symbol of God’s promise never again to destroy all life on earth.
How appropriate that the rainbow has become a symbol of GLBT pride! Richmond puts a fresh twist on the Biblical epic with his sweeping vision of a gay-positive new world. A rainbow flag flies high on the mast of Noah’s gay cruise ship. “As the clouds begin to part, a heavenly rainbow appears in the sky to remind hopeful voyagers that full legal recognition and acknowledgement of same-sex love is just over the horizon,” Richmond explains.
This is huge fun, with the visual puns spelt out for those unable to instantly recognise each face. Just what we need to cheer us in the aftermath of the loss in Maine: a reminder that victory in the long run will still be ours.
Apart from fun, of course, the idea of gay couples on the ark is entirely appropriate. Sexual diversity is everywhere in the animal kingdom, just as it is in human society. See “Natural Families: The Wildlife Rainbow“, at Queering the Church.