This week I finished the first painting in a new series. This series is inspired by extraordinary women throughout history whose stories are compelling. I wanted to center around women that most people have never heard of: who are not household names, but whose acts of bravery, and contributions to society have made a great impact or are amazing to think of. My goal with this series is to awaken the part of the viewer that is brave or has greatness within, and inspire them to greater heights.
This first painting is inspired by the story of Therese Stark Renz. Therese was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1858. Her parents were both circus performers, although her mother dearly hoped that Therese would choose a more conventional life for herself. However, Therese was captivated by the circus life and had aspirations of her own. She began her training at the illustrious Wulff Circus in Switzerland when she was only 13. By the time she was 15, she was performing.
Therese became the most famous female equestrian in the land. She was known for her performances on horses that involved a high level of skill, and her most famous trick was jumping rope while on the horse–the horse jumping the rope! She was written about in all the major newspapers of the time, and her fame spread.
She soon began working at Circus Renz, a renouned German circus. While there, she fell in love with the nephew of the ringmaster, Robert Renz. Soon the two married and she bore a son, Hugo. After a period of approximately ten blissful years of family life, performing, and fame, this happy period of Therese’s life came to an end. Her husband died, and soon after her young son died of an unknown heart condition.
Therese was heartbroken, and thought about retiring from the circus life. However, she decided to keep performing, as it was what she knew and loved. She decided to start her own traveling circus in Belgium–owning her own company, being her own ringmaster, and organizing all aspects of the business, not to mention performing. This circus included horses, zebras, great danes, and even two elephants.
World War 1 came to Europe then, and Therese sold the circus and disbanded it to keep from starving–during a time when most people could care less about the circus. Therese was 60 years old by the time the war ended. Her age didn’t stop her from performing, though. In 1923, she joined a troupe in Vienna, and continued her performances on horseback late into her 70’s. She died in 1938 and was buried next to her husband who preceded her many years before.
Therese was interviewed late in her life by a French women’s journal, during which the interviewer addresses Therese about her interesting life.
“If you had the opportunity to live your life again, knowing all you know, all the joys and all the anguish that await you, would you choose as you had chosen before?”
Therese slowly sat up, looked one second at her horses – and probably beyond them to the adventurous parade that had been this life – then she looked at me. This little woman suddenly seemed surprisingly large, with a beautiful new face of energy, pride, and passion.
“Before God I swear, knowing all the trouble, all the grief, but also the infinite joys that were my destiny, I would not like to change one line of my life story. Regret, you see, even one regret, is worse than bankruptcy.”
I decided to paint a picture inspired by Therese because I was moved by her story, which shows great strength of spirit, a strong love story, and fierce determination in all that she did. I liked her brave and feisty spirit which showed itself by her boldness, courage, and determination to never stop living her life fully, no matter what hardships were thrown her way.
My painting shows a dreamy vision of young Therese on her horse, leveling her gaze at the viewer while displaying an attitude of strength and confidence.
I hope that this story and painting inspires you to embrace the opportunities in your life fearlessly and with confidence, just like Theresa did. What dreams do you have that you may be putting off? Dream big. As Lera Aurbach writes in her book Excess of Being, “I do not stretch my imagination-my imagination stretches me.”
My painting is oil on canvas, with 2″ gallery-wrapped canvas sides, and measures 30 inches by 30 inches square. If you would like information on purchasing the painting , please visit www.jessicalibor.com and click on “Shop” for more details, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an inspiring day,
Source credit for historical facts: Horse Nation, Horses throughout history: Therese Renz, Equine Circus Performer Extraordinaire, by Lorraine Jackson. Photos: Public Domain.