- Full Name:
- Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot
- Short Name:
- Date of Birth:
- 14 Jan 1841
- Date of Death:
- 02 Mar 1895
- Gouache, Oil, Watercolor
- Figure, Landscapes
- Art Movement:
- Bourges, France
Berthe Morisot is one of the founding yet least famous of the Impressionist painters. Unlike her contemporaries Renoir and Monet her name has never achieved the same household recognition, perhaps because Morisot was a woman. Nevertheless in recent times critics have hailed Berthe Morisot's work as exceptional and she referred to as one of the finest female artists of the 19th century. Berthe Morisot is often praised for her courage to pursue an artistic career against society's conventions.
Berthe Morisot was born in France and lived in the Paris area her whole life. She worked mainly with oil paints and her compositions focused on her family and friends. Like all Impressionists Morisot preferred to work outside and her paintings are flooded with natural light.
Her small compositions are usually domestic in nature and she is commended for the unique feminine perspective she brings to her work. Morisot married her close friend Manet's brother at a late age and did not have her first child until she was 38 years old but she successfully balanced her family life and her career.
Berthe Morisot is now considered one of the foremost Impressionist painters.
Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France, in 1841 to the influential politician Edme Tiburce Morisot. Because her wealthy family was part of La Grande Bourgeoisie (the upper-middle class of French society) Morisot received the appropriate art, singing and etiquette lessons. As an adult her relative's wealth permitted her to work without the pressure of earning money.
At a young age Morisot was taken to the Grand Louvre museum by her teacher Joseph Guichard and there she made friends with other painters living in Paris. However Morisot was quickly unimpressed with reproducing the works of the great painters and requested a new art teacher. She began to work with Camille Corot in 1860 and was delighted to work outside in the natural sunlight.
Berthe Morisot submitted her work to the Salon de Paris, the official art exhibition room of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and it was displayed between 1864 and 1870. However, after meeting her close friend Édouard Manet in 1868 Berthe Morisot aligned herself with the Impressionist art movement (although Manet did not consider himself an Impressionist).
Morisot's work was pretty much halted when the Prussians invaded Paris but by the summer of 1871 she was working again. She exhibited at the Impressionists' showcases and took part in seven of their eight expositions. In 1874 Morisot married Manet's brother Eugene.
After her marriage Berthe Morisot continued to pursue her artistic career alongside the social commitments she had to adhere to. She only missed one of the Impressionists' exhibitions due to illness when she had her daughter in 1878.
When the Impressionist movement subsided in the mid-1880s Morisot maintained strong ties with her contemporaries. She died in 1895 and it is possible to visit her grave in the cimetiѐre de Passy.
Berthe Morisot created small compositions with pencil, gouache, or small tins of watercolor paints. Producing small paintings allowed her to work outside and whilst visiting friends. Morisot was influenced by the subject matter female artists were expected to produce and enjoyed creating watercolor portraits of her family and paintings of landscapes.
Morisot brought a new female perspective to pictures of domesticated women. She challenged the sexual version of women that was evident in her male friends' work and revealed the life of 19th-century women as she saw it.
Morisot's luminous paintings were highly praised for their faint progressions between light and dark. The artist used many strokes of paint that were lightly brushed onto the canvas and left a luminescent sheen. She always favored the use of watercolor paints and pastels but between 1880 and 1890 she experimented with lithography and dry point printmaking.
Her fluid brush work and the natural light that flood her pictures add a spontaneous element to her work.
The Little Gardener
Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe
In 1857 Berthe Morisot, together with her siblings, had her first art lessons with teacher Geoffrey-Alphonse Chocarne. Not much is known about Berthe Morisot's lessons but according to her brother Tiburce's record of their time, Chocrane had little influence on Berthe's painting technique, and in fact she declared she would rather abandon painting all together than continue to visit Chocarne's. Her parents listened and found her and her siblings a new drawing instructor, Joseph Guichard.
Guichard influenced Morisot far more than Chocarne and can be credited with having introduced Morisot to the Grand Louvre (the largest art museum in Paris, France) where she copied the great masters such as Titian and Rubens and learned about painting and the history of art.
Guichard also introduced Morisot to the artist Gavarni, a witty caricaturist and talented draftsman who in turn introduced Berthe Morisot to modern, lively art forms.
By 1860 Berthe Morisot had rejected Guichard's manner of painting and declared that she wanted to paint en plein air (a French expression to signify painting outside). This was a modern phenomenon for skillful artists that had only been recently embraced by the future Impressionist painters.
Guichard ceased to teach the Morisots' and recommended the instructor Camille Corot. Corot took Berthe and Edma Morisot to paint outside on the riverbanks of France and taught them how to make shapes through color rather than harsh lines. Corot never pushed them beyond the realms of what other women were painting and preferred Edma's more humble paintings to Berthe's.
Greater known influences:
It was during Morisot's sessions at the Louvre with Guichard that Morisot revealed her preference for painters such as Titian, Veronese and Rubens. These were artists who had manipulated color, tone and consistency in their works and created sincere images. It was these images that unmistakably sparked Morisot's early interest in shading and texture.
Despite this, in the early 1860s Morisot wanted to work outside and paint what she saw in the natural sunlight rather than work inside a studio. In 1868 she was exposed to the works of Frédéric Bazille and his method of blending his portraits figure's into the landscape around them astounded Morisot.
Bazille utilized the colors of natural sunlight to merge the shapes and shades within his paintings and take focus away from the figure in the forefront. Although Morisot was already working in this manner she took inspiration from Bazille's technique and attempted to recreate this melting effect to an even greater degree.
In The Harbor at Lorient, for example, the distant river and the sky almost blend into one, and the eyes do not immediately turn to the lady with the parasol.
Many critics argue that Édouard Manet had the greatest outside influence on Moriot's work. When she was a young woman she spent a great deal of time in his studio sitting for her portrait and learning about his methods. Although he was never her formal tutor the respect she had for him clearly influenced her paintings. Even after Manet died Morisot continued to believe that he was the greatest painter of their period.
During her lifetime Morisot's art did not garner the same amount of attention as her contemporaries. Although she was an acclaimed artist who had exhibited work in the Salon her paintings did not inspire followers like Monet's did, for example. Nevertheless, Morisot did influence artists closer to home and her daughter Julie cites her mother as one of her greatest influences and before Berthe Morisot died she accompanied her talented daughter on many painting excursions.
Édouard Manet was influenced by Morisot's painting style. Although he can never be labeled one of her followers, it was she that encouraged him to paint en plein air and to widen his color palette. Theirs was a relationship that benefitted both artists.
Berthe Morisot was a central member of the Impressionist's group and her work demonstrated Impressionism in a concise form. Thus any art movement that was influenced by Impressionism was indirectly inspired by Morisot's paintings. These include Post-Impressionism, Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism.
Post-Impressionists continued to utilize the same extensive color range, heavy brush work, and subject matter as the Impressionists. Yet, they often painted more lineal forms and were prepared to use unusual colors that may not have accurately represented nature.
Berthe Morisot set an example to other women in how to defy society's chauvinistic conventions. Although she did not demonstrate and petition for women's rights she lived her life in a feminist manner. Having a career was highly unusual for rich Parisian ladies and Morisot is one of the few distinguished female artists from the nineteenth century.
Morisot was praised for her choice of subject matter despite the criticism she faced as a woman. Critics overlooked Morisot's subversive painting techniques because she revealed traditional feminine scenes in her work. Nevetheless Morisot was considered a talented enough painter to exhibit her work in the Salon de Paris between 1864 and 1868.
In 1892 Morisot's first solo exhibition raised her profile in the world's artistic sphere. She was applauded for creating attractive and polished works, which many credited to the feminine angle she brought to her profession. She was much admired for the personal characteristics of her work and showed herself to be extremely skillful at portrait painting in the natural sunlight.
Morisot died in 1895 and many hailed her as one of the greatest female painters of all time. Whilst the artist has not established the same fame as some of her contemporaries, perhaps because she is a woman, Morisot is recognized as one of the leading Impressionists. She is a critically acclaimed artist today and her paintings have sold for millions of dollars.
To read more about Berthe Morisot and her works please choose from the following recommended sources.
• Adler, Kathleen & Garb, Tamar. Berthe Morisot. Phaidon Press Ltd, 1995
• Bouillom, Jean-Paul, et al. Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, Marie Bracquemond. Hatje Cantz, 2008
• Papin-Drastik, Ivonne, et al. Berthe Morisot: Plural Vision. Mazzotta Edizione, 2006
• Rey, Jean-Dominique. Berthe Morisot. Flammarion, 2010
• Shennan, Margaret. Berthe Morisot: The First Lady of Impressionism. Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2000
• Wilheml, Hugues. Berthe Morisot. Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 2002