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Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

French impressionist painter
(1841 - 1895)

Morisot, Berthe(1841-95), French Impressionist painter and printmaker.

Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France into a family of wealth and culture. Her father was a high ranking civil servant. She was Fragonard's great-grand daughter.

The Artist's sister, 1864
The Artist's Sister, 1864
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

After moving to Paris with her family, the young girl and her sister received their first instruction in drawing and painting. Morisot received the conventional lessons in drawing and painting. She went firmly against convention, however, in choosing to take these pursuits seriously and make them her life's work. . She took some lessons for a time under Camille Corot.

The Harbor at Lorient, 1869
Le port de Lorient, 1869
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

In July 1868 Fantin-Latour introduced Berthe to Manet, whom she greatly admired. Although Manet was had a strong influence on her work, she soon developed a distinctive style of her own. Her style, in turn, influenced his painting and encouraged him to work en plein air. She appears in The Balcony and a number of later works. Unlike most of the other impressionists, who were then intensely engaged in optical experiments with color, Morisot and Manet agreed on a more conservative approach, confining their use of color to a naturalistic framework.

Morisot married Manet's brother Eugene in December, 1874. Her house at 4, rue de la Princesse in Bougival then became a social and inspirational center for the Impressionists. By 1885 she had begun to hold regular soirees for friends that were artists or writers, including Mallarmé.

Morisot exhibited regularly at the Salon, and at all the Impressionist exhibitions except for 1879. Morisot took part in the innovations of the Impressionists from the beginning and she remained faithful up to the last group exhibition in 1886.

Le berceau, 1872
Le berceau, 1872
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Morisot worked out an individual style: characteristic of her work are its very light touch and great intimacy of atmosphere (see The Cradle). Her technique, based on large touches of paint applied freely in every direction, give her works a transparent, iridescent quality. She worked both in oil and in watercolor, producing mainly landscapes and scenes of women and children, as in Madame Pontillon Seated on the Grass (1873, Cleveland Museum of Art).

In March of 1895, Berthe Morisot died of pneumonia at the age of 54. In her last letter to her daughter, Julie Manet, she bequeathed paintings to Degas, Monet and Renoir. In spite of her international reputation as an artist, her death certificate bears the words "No professions".

"I don't think there has ever been a man who treated a woman as an equal
and that's all I would have asked, for I know I'm worth as much as they."

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