Until yesterday evening, if someone had asked me to name some Impressionist painters, I would have listed (Claude) Monet, (Paul) Cézanne, (Edgar) Degas or (Édouard) Manet. Somehow I hadn’t thought about the apparent lack of female representation among the Impressionist painters. This changed when I attended the opening of the major retrospective devoted to Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) at the Musée Marmottan Monet yesterday.
Without going into a long spiel, here are some key nuggets of information that I’ve learned about Morisot:
- Morisot was the first woman to join the Impressionist painters.
- Morisot was one of the two (the other being Camille Pissarro) who had exhibited in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions from 1874-1886.
- Morisot’s work stood out for her delicate, elegant and luminous style which was expressed in landscapes, scenes of everyday life and mostly on women and children. (I did some internet checks and found out that apparently being a female Impressionist painter in the 19th century meant that Morisot faced more restrictions on the places she could go to compared to the male Impressionist painters. This therefore limited the scope of her work to her life in the upper middle-class Parisian suburb of Passy.)
- She became acquainted with Édouard Manet (the famous Impressionist painter) in 1868 and subsequently married Édouard’s younger brother, Eugène Manet in 1874. (So it seems that questions have been raised about the relationship between Édouard Manet and Morisot. Apart from being friends and colleagues, were they actually lovers? Morisot had been a model for Édouard Manet though somehow this stopped after her marriage to Eugène Manet.)
- Morisot’s only child Julie became a favourite subject of her paintings.
- She was described in 1894 as one of “les trois grandes dames” (three great ladies) of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt (Note to self: Go check up on Bracquemond and Cassatt).
- Morisot died in Paris on 2 March 1895 at the age of 54 and was buried in the Passy cemetery in the 16th arrondissement.
One of the paintings that caught my eye at the exhibition was that which Morisot painted of her husband Eugène Manet and Julie.
The current exhibition (from 8 March – 1 July 2012) features 150 paintings, pastels, watercolours and drawings in red chalk and charcoal, that have been gathered from museums and private collections all over the world and retrace the career of Morisot. As described by Musée Marmottan Monet, “the exhibition layout takes a fresh look at the work of Berthe Morisot. More than a painter of women and children, a self-conscious bridge between the painting of the 18th and 19th centuries, the exhibition invites us to see in her one of the Impressionist movement’s most innovative, least dogmatic artists — the only member of the group to identify and explore the link between Renoir’s drawings and the dissolution of form achieved later by Monet.”
Those who love Impressionist art should really head for this exhibition as I personally thought that Morisot’s work lent a softer, or some would say feminine, touch to Impressionism and was an eye-opener!!
Here’s more information from Musée Marmottan Monet’s website: