Celou Bonnet grew up surrounded by the beauty of Provence. Born in Carpentras, France, Celou’s earliest memories are of the scent of lavender, thyme and rosemary, the warmth of the sun and the unbridled love of her family. Her childhood was resplendent with carefree activities that she shared with her sister and her brothers. “You could say we grew up a bit wild,” recalls Celou,” we were respectful of our parents, but we spent a great many hours outdoors” Although her family was by no means affluent, they were wealthy beyond imagination with the qualities that are important to a child.
Her Grandfather, classically trained as an artist, had a small house near Aix-en-Provence in the village of Vauvenargues. Celou and her sibling spent many Sundays hiking on Mont Sainte Victoire which was immortalized half a century earlier by Paul Cezanne. She also remembers visiting the home of Picasso for whom her grandfather worked. In her hometown of Carpentras, she visited a home where Degas vacationed. “At the time, I did not know how much my childhood would later influence my art-work,” remarks Celou,” but given where I grew up, I can hardly deny that I was not also influenced by the beauty of the region.”
When Celou was a teenager, she fell in love for the first time – with an Arabian horse named Gitan. Celou and Gitan spent endless hours exploring the hills surrounding her home. She became an expert rider and later moved to Chantilly, near Paris, to work with thoroughbred racehorses. She had good fortune (and pleasure) to work with some of the finest European racehorses. When the stable she worked for relocated to the United States, Celou traveled with the horses and made her home in New York.
In 1981, Célou moved to California to work for famed thoroughbred racehorse trainer Charlie Whittingham. She continued to ride horses, however, it was her move to Fallbrook in the winter of 1984 when she finally realized her artistic destiny – to create sculpture in bronze. She learned the technique of working with bronze from Bill Yancy at the Hammerman foundry in Escondido. She perfected her impressionistic style in the spirit of Degas. “There is something in the movement of horses that can only be expressed in the form of an impression. It is that ephemeral moment, when we catch a glimpse of their spirit, that I am trying to express in my artwork,” In 1999, Célou was honored with the distinction of “Artist of the Year” by the Fallbrook Art Association.
Thought her long and varied life, art and horses seemed forever linked in the heart of Célou. In 1988, Célou was still riding occasionally at Santa Anita, when she was selected from Charlie Whittingham’s stable to ride as a jockey in an amateur race to benefit the United States Equestrian Team who were destined for the Olympics. She finished second – bringing heartfelt congratulations and much-needed funds to the team.
On September 23. 2000. Célou Bonnet became an American citizen