One severe critic compared the second Impressionist exhibition's exhibitors as "five or six lunatics, one of them is a lady" when it first opened in Paris in the spring of 1876. Naturally, the lady was Berthe Morisot, who, despite her gender, rose to prominence in the most popular creative movement of the 19th century. But the "lunatic" moniker was an aberration. With their acceptance into the Salon at 23, Morisot developed her artistic abilities and found success at a young age. She stubbornly retained her position at the top of the French paint hierarchy until her death thirty years later. Morisot devised the relationships and family-related support that permitted her to carve out her impartial career as an artist for more than 3 decades and leave a lasting impression on French art. This was despite the reality that she was frequently critical of her work and restricted by social conventions from pursuing the same subject matter as her men equivalents.
Edmé Tiburce Morisot and Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie Thomas greeted Berthe Morisot into the world at Bourges, France, in 1841. Her father was a high official in the neighborhood government, and the family was affluent. Her mother was linked to Jean-Honore Fragonard, a Rococo artist. Morisot has a younger brother named Tiburce and two elder sisters named Yves and Edma. The parents moved to Paris in 1852, where Morisot would remain for the remainder of her life.
It was thought that Berthe and her sisters would seek an artistic education as they were the daughters of a bourgeois family. One of their instructors, the painter Joseph Guichard, took the pupils to the Louvre, encouraging them to study by replicating the pictures on the walls. Guichard also alerted the girls' parents to possible problems with continuing their artistic education: "Given your daughters' inherent talents, my guidance won't result in menial drawing-room skills; rather, they'll become artists. Do you understand completely what that implies? It will be revolutionary—almost devastating, in fact—in your environment of haute bourgeoisie."
Despite this caution, Edma and Berthe continued to be given instructions. However, Edma eventually married a navy officer, moved away to raise a family, and gave up her major artistic endeavors. Nevertheless, she encouraged Berthe to keep working since they were very close.
In response, Morisot enrolled at the Louvre as a copyist. She met other painters there, such as the landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. She started creating her first important works while working en plein air after he urged her to do so. She spent a lot of time during this time studying painting and learning to model, albeit none of her pieces has survived.
Two of Morisot's landscape paintings were accepted into the official Parisian Salon in 1864 when she was just 23 years old. This was a performance for a young woman that was nearly unheard of. You see, ladies, one may be an artist and participate in public displays of painting and remain, as before, a very reputable and incredibly charming person, said one critic in response. She exhibited her art at the Salon for many years, which was usually highly received.
Morisot first encountered Édouard Manet, who was effectively the head of avant-garde painting in Paris, in 1868. In a famous letter to Henri Fantin-Latour, Manet penned: "The Morisot sisters are beautiful. What a bad they aren't guys, but as women, they could support painting by each being wedded to an academia " (men who were jurors of the French Academy). Quite quickly, Manet and Morisot grew close and gave each other feedback on the other's work. However, Morisot was practically unhappy when Manet added modifications to one of her Salon entries more casually than Morisot liked, indicating that Manet didn't view the partnership as entirely mutual.
Nevertheless, Manet admired Morisot's viewpoint and artistic output. Notably, it was Morisot who pushed Manet to start painting en plein air, which was a crucial breakthrough in his creative technique. Morisot was Manet's most popular subject, featured in his works 12 times. In 1872, he finished an especially well-known painting of Morisot in which he showed her wearing a black outfit and giving her an assured, observant stare. Manet's 1868 painting The Balcony, which features Morisot, is said to have "centred on her air of compelling beauty, her mystery, and the complicated inner battle portrayed in her face," according to critic Sue Roe.
According to some beliefs, the two fell in love but could not continue their connection because Manet had already been married when they first met. It is essential to remember that Manet was quite the playboy of his time, constantly frequenting brothels and reputed to have had company with numerous women while not married. It is unknown if the two participated in a passionate relationship or if Morisot was the exception to Manet's purported tendencies. We might infer that Morisot had a strong love for the charismatic Manet from the letters she left behind.
After selling 22 paintings to private dealer Durand-Ruel in 1872, Morisot started her career as a recognized artist. Morisot was lured into Manet's group of paintings known as the Post - Impressionists, her friendship with him. Manet urged Morisot not to join the avant-garde group and insisted on remaining with his more mainstream artistic career. Morisot, however, disregarded his counsel, and her artwork was included at the first-ever Monet painting exhibition in 1874, underlining her significance to the nascent movement.
At the comparably late age of 33, in 1874, Morisot wed Eugène, the younger brother of Manet. Some have said that their union was really a matter of practicality, the second-best choice given that Morisot could not wed the elder, now also an artist. Eugène, who was also an artist, chose to forgo pursuing his own work in order to support Morisot in hers. Edgar Degas gave the newlyweds a portrait of Eugène as a wedding gift. After the marriage, Manet stopped painting Morisot.
Unlike her sister, Morisot was able to combine her career as an artist with being a wife and mother. Julie was the couple's first and only child, born in 1878. Julie appeared for many other painters as a youngster, notably Manet and Renoir, and Morisot frequently painted her daughter.
Morisot had good bonds with group members of the Monet group during her career, including Degas, Monet, Renoir, and the poet Mallarme. She became an enthusiastic member of the Impressionist movement and appeared in their shows every year but in 1878. She even labored alone to plan the final Impressionist exhibition in 1886. She continued to exhibit with avant-garde painters after the Renoir group as an organized movement collapsed, donating several works to the Brussels display of the Belgian group Les XX in 1887 and four paintings to the display of its successor, La Libre Esthetique, in 1894. Unusually, Morisot never used a pseudonym or her marital name when presenting; instead, she always used her maiden name.
Beginning in 1891, Eugène Manet endured a period of ill health, and in the ensuing year, in Paris, he passed away. Julie, their daughter, suffered pneumonia three years later. While seeing her rehabilitation, Morisot tragically caught the illness and passed away on March 2, 1895. "Berthe Morisot's originality was to 'live' her painting, and to paint her life she took up, put down, and came to her brush like a thought that comes to us, is totally forgotten, then appears to us once more," the poet Paul Valery wrote after her death.
In the year following her passing, 380 of Morisot's paintings were assembled for the first reunion of her work, organized by her artistic colleagues Degas and Renoir as a tribute to her skill.
Artwork by Berthe Morisot
View of Paris from the Trocadero 1871-72
The Cradle 1872
Dans le Blé (In the Wheatfield) 1875
Young Girl in a Ball Gown 1879
The Harbor at Nice 1881-82
Reclining Nude Shepherdess 1891