Berthe Morisot

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Berthe Morisot
Edouard Manet - Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets - Google Art Project.jpg
Born Berthe Morisot
(1841-01-14)January 14, 1841
Bourges, Cher, France
Died March 2, 1895(1895-03-02) (aged 54)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Known for Painting
Movement Impressionism

Berthe Morisot (French: [mɔʁizo]; January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895) was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.[1]

In 1864, she exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris. Sponsored by the government, and judged by Academicians, the Salon was the official, annual exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris. Her work was selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons[2] until, in 1874, she joined the "rejected" Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. It was held at the studio of the photographer Nadar.

She became the sister-in-law of her friend and colleague, Édouard Manet, when she married his brother, Eugène.


Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, Musée d'Orsay

Morisot was born in Bourges, Cher, France, into a successful bourgeois family. According to family tradition, the family had included one of the most prolific Rococo painters of the ancien régime, Fragonard,[3] whose handling of color and expressive, confident brushwork influenced later painters. Both Berthe and her sister, Edma Morisot, chose to become painters.[4]

Berthe Morisot's family moved to Paris when she was a child. Once Berthe settled on pursuing art, her family did not impede her career. She registered as a copyist at the Louvre. By age twenty, she had met and befriended the important, and pivotal, landscape painter of the Barbizon School, Camille Corot, who excelled in figure painting as well. The older artist instructed Berthe and her sister in painting and introduced them to other artists and teachers. Under Corot's influence, Morisot took up the plein air method of working.

Manet and impressionism[edit]

Berthe Morisot, Grain field, Musée d'Orsay.

Morisot's first appearance in the Salon de Paris came at the age of twenty-three in 1864, with the acceptance of two landscape paintings. She continued to show regularly in the Salon, to generally favorable reviews, until 1873, the year before the first Impressionist exhibition. Morisot exhibited with the Impressionists from 1874 onwards, only missing the exhibition in 1878 when her daughter was born.[5]

Meanwhile, in 1868 Morisot became acquainted with Édouard Manet. He took a special interest in Morisot, as is evident from his warm portrayal of her in several paintings, including a striking portrait study of Morisot in a black veil, while in mourning for her father's death (displayed at the top of the article). Correspondence between them bespeaks affection. He once gave her an easel as a Christmas present. He also interfered in one of her Salon submissions when he was engaged to transport it. Manet mistook one of Morisot's self-criticisms as an invitation to add his corrections, which he did, much to Morisot's dismay.

Although traditionally Manet has been related as the master and Morisot as the follower, there is evidence that their relationship was a reciprocating one.[6] Morisot had developed her own distinctive artistic style. Records of paintings show Manet's appreciation of certain stylistic and compositional decisions that Morisot originated. He incorporated some of these characteristics into his own work.

It was Morisot who persuaded Manet to attempt plein air painting, which she had been practicing since having been introduced to it by Corot.[7]

She also drew Manet into the circle of painters who soon became known as the Impressionists. In 1874, Morisot married Manet's brother, Eugene, and they had one daughter, Julie. Julie Manet became the subject for many of her mother's paintings and a book of her memoirs Growing Up with the Impressionists: The Diary of Julie Manet, was published in 1987.


Morisot painted what she experienced on a daily basis. Her paintings reflect the 19th-century cultural restrictions of her class and gender. She avoided urban and street scenes as well as the nude figure and, like her fellow female Impressionist Mary Cassatt, focused on domestic life and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models. Paintings like The Cradle (1872), in which she depicted current trends for nursery furniture, reflect her sensitivity to fashion and advertising, both of which would have been apparent to her female audience. Her works also include landscapes, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes.


Berthe Morisot died on March 2, 1895, in Paris, of pneumonia contracted while attending to her daughter Julie's similar illness. She was interred in the Cimetière de Passy.

In popular culture[edit]

She was portrayed by actress Marine Delterme in the eponymous 2012 French biographical TV film directed by Caroline Champetier.

Art market[edit]

At a Christie's auction in February 2013, After Lunch (1881), a portrait of a young redhead in a straw hat and purple dress,[8] sold for $10.9 million, roughly three times its high estimate.[9] The painting set a record at the time as the most expensive work ever sold by a female artist at auction at the time,[10][11] topping an earlier record set with $10.7 million having been paid for a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois in 2012.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Geffroy, Gustave (1894), Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, La Vie artistique: 268 .
  2. ^ Denvir, 2000, pp. 29-79.
  3. ^ Higonnet, p. 5
  4. ^ As art students, Berthe and Edma worked closely together until Edma married, had children, and no longer had time to paint so intensely as Berthe. Letters between them show a loving and cordial relationship, underscored by Berthe's regret at the distance between them and about Edma's withdrawal from painting. Edma wholeheartedly supported Berthe's continued work and the families of the two sisters always remained close.
  5. ^ Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (Fifth ed.). London: Thames & Hudson Inc. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-500-20405-4. 
  6. ^ Turner, 2000, p. 319.
  7. ^ "Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)". Paul van Rensburg Gallery of Art. 
  8. ^ Kelly Crow and Mary M. Lane (February 6, 2013), Christie's Breaks World Record Price for Female Artist Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ Ellen Gamerman and Mary M. Lane (April 18, 2013), Women on the Verge Wall Street Journal.
  10. ^ Ellen Gamerman and Mary M. Lane (April 18, 2013), Women on the Verge Wall Street Journal.
  11. ^ Katya Kazakina (May 14, 2014), Billionaires Help Christie’s to Record $745 Million Sale Bloomberg.
  12. ^ Kelly Crow and Mary M. Lane (February 6, 2013), Christie's Breaks World Record Price for Female Artist Wall Street Journal.


  • Denvir, B. (2000). The Chronicle of Impressionism: An Intimate Diary of the Lives and World of the Great Artists. London: Thames & Hudson. OCLC 43339405
  • Higonnet, Anne (1995). Berthe Morisot. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20156-6
  • Turner, J. (2000). From Monet to Cézanne: late 19th-century French artists. Grove Art. New York: St Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-22971-2
  • Manet, Julie, Rosalind de Boland Roberts, and Jane Roberts. Growing Up with the Impressionists: The Diary of Julie Manet. London: Sotheby's Publications, 1987
  • Shennan, Margaret (1996). 'Berthe Morisot: The First Lady of Impressionism'. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2339-3

External links[edit]

External video
Morisot's The Mother and Sister of the Artist, (3:35)
Video Postcard: Woman at Her Toilette (1875/80) on YouTube, (1:58) Art Institute of Chicago