Klumpke, Anna

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KLUMPKE, Anna (b. 28 October 1856;d. 9 February 1942), painter.

Anna Elizabeth Klumpke was the first of five daughters and two sons born in San Francisco to John Gerald Klumpke, a German-born Roman Catholic cobbler turned real estate dealer, and Dorothea Mathilda Tolle, a German-speaking Protestant. After a childhood knee injury, Klumpke used a crutch or cane for the rest of her life. From age nine to eleven, Klumpke, with her mother and her sisters, lived in Europe, seeking help for her lame leg. After a divorce in 1872, mother and children returned to Europe, where the Klumpke sisters excelled academically. One became a physician, another an astronomer with a doctorate in mathematics. The next to youngest became a pianist and the youngest was a violinist, composer, and tenured professor of music and theory.

Klumpke studied traditional painting at the Académie Julian in Paris for ten years (from about 1877–1887) under William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Tony Robert-Fleury, and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. She excelled in portraiture and peasant genre scenes. Klumpke needed to earn her own living. Beginning in 1882 at age twenty-five, she gained portrait commissions by winning admission to and awards at annual juried salon shows. Her sisters were often the subject of her paintings, which increased their fame as well as her own. In 1889, she painted a dignified image of the American women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Anna Klumpke had a gift for languages and often translated for students and instructors in the Académie Julian. In 1889 she was asked to translate for a U.S. horse dealer when he visited Rosa Bonheur (b. 1822), the award-winning French painter of animals. Bonheur's life companion and studio helpmate, Nathalie Micas, had died earlier in 1889, and Bonheur was in mourning when Klumpke met her. In the ensuing years, a warm correspondence developed.

In 1891, Klumpke moved to Boston. The following year, she exhibited thirty-eight oils and pastels. Her portraits found a favorable clientele in the Boston area and, by the end of her first year, her earnings equaled a Harvard University professor's. In 1893 her paintings were shown at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1897 she exhibited at the Gillespie Gallery in Pittsburgh and at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco. In 1898, her portraits were included in the Albany Historical and Art Society show.

In early 1898 Klumpke wrote to Rosa Bonheur asking to paint the older artist's portrait, and Bonheur acquiesced, inviting Klumpke to stay with her and use her studio. Klumpke arrived at Bonheur's home near Fontainebleau, outside of Paris, on 16 June 1898. Forty-four days later, Bonheur proposed, asking her if she would "like to stay with me and share my existence?" Despite objections from both families, Klumpke agreed to a "divine marriage of two souls." During the next year, Klumpke painted at least three formal portraits of Bonheur and also took photographs of her. Especially significant are photographs showing Bonheur flaunting conventions by smoking a cigarette and wearing her work smock with men's trousers.

Bonheur died 25 May 1899 in Klumpke's arms. They had had nine months together. The year before, Klumpke had photographed Bonheur wearing a laurel crown that she, Klumpke, had made. Bonheur called it "Old Europe crowned by young America" and asked to be buried wearing it. Her wish was granted.

Bonheur had willed her home and complete control of her estate to Klumpke, freeing Klumpke of the need to seek portrait commissions. Nevertheless, Klumpke continued to paint for the rest of her life. For the first nine years after Bonheur's death, Klumpke worked on a biography of the older artist, sifting through notes and letters and cataloging works of art. This effort was published as Rosa Bonheur: Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre (1908).

In her fifties and sixties, Klumpke received the Order of Chevalier (1913) and the Order of Officier (1921) of the French Legion of Honor. In 1937, in anticipation of World War II, Anna Klumpke, then in her late eighties, returned to the United States to live in San Francisco. She died there on 9 February 1942. Her ashes were added to the tomb in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris that already held the remains of Bonheur, Bonheur's lover Nathalie Micas, and Micas's mother.

Klumpke's paintings are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); the M. H. De Young Museum (San Francisco); the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.); the Rosa Bonheur Studio Museum, Château de By (Thoméry, France); and the Walker Art Museum (Brunswick, Maine).


Dwyer, Britta C. Anna Klumpke: A Turn-of-the-Century Painter and Her World. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999.

Klumpke, Anna. Memoirs of an Artist. Boston: Wright and Potter, 1940.

——. Rosa Bonheur: The Artist's (Auto) biography. Translated by Gretchen van Slyke. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Tee A. Corinne

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