Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Was Berthe Morisot an Impressionist?
Berthe Morisot participated in 7 of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions. Only Degas and Rouart evened this number and only Pissarro surpassed this with participating in all expositions. She was a co-founder of the ‘Société Anonyme…‘, she was involved (but not very active) in the organisation of the expositions. She had many contacts within the various circles of friends and they lasted until her death. She was highly admired by her impressionist colleagues. So you may say she was one of the key figures within the impressionist art-movement.
Although Morisot used bright colours, she also would go on using blacks and greys. Striking is the often creamy haze that covers her pictures. Her paint is often thinned, her brushstroke very lively, but she mostly doesn’t use juxtaposed brushstrokes. Most of her works are very sketchy, leaving out details and capturing the passing moment. The main theme she used is depicting family members in a domestic surrounding. Obvious is that she seldom used indications of time of day / season / weather (see account). She often finished her works in her studio. So although Morisot is mostly seen as the most important female Impressionist, her style is more than once different than that of the most typical Impressionists like Monet, Sisley and Pissarro. I like to conclude that she mainly, but not fully painted in an Impressionist painting style.
Berthe Morisot, her sisters and her teachers:
Berthe Morisot grew up in a rich, upper class family. Her father was prefect from 1840-48. (R42,p92;R7,p200) In 1857 Berthe and her elder sisters Yves (1838-93) and Edma (1840-1921) started drawing lessons with Chocarne (R42,p13;R9,p544). Yves soon gave up drawing. Berthe and Edma soon received painting lessons from Guichard (Berthe left because she wanted to paint en-plein-air), later of Corot (1860-2; he often dined with the Morisots) and later from Oudinot in Auvers-sur-Oise (1863). Around 1863 they lived in nearby Chou and got to know Daubigny, Daumier and Guillemet. Part of their education was also copying old masters in the Louvre. Edma stopped painting when she married in 1869 (Duret mentions this was in 1868). Schurr and Cabanne mention that her style was similar to Corot and Berthe. Edma stayed the favorite model of Berthe (R42,p13-16+92;R93,p9;R9,p544;R7,p200;R3).
Berthe Morisot and the Salon:
Berthe Morisot exhibited at the Salon in 1864 + 65 + 66 + 67 + 68 + 70 + 72 + 73. Her sister Edma also exhibited from 1864-68. They were called pupils of Guichard and Oudinot. (iR1;R9,p544;R7,p200). In 1869 Berthe didn’t admit (R5,p55). See an account and her pictures exhibited.
From 1886-1905 there was a Mlle Henriette Morisot who frequently exhibited at the Salon (des artistes français) and who also was a member. She mainly exhibited portraits. She lived in Paris. (iR1). Schurr and Cabanne don’t mention her, but they do mention an Auguste Morisot (1857-1951), who was active in the region of Lyon (R9,p543). It is unclear how they are related to Berthe. At the Salon of 1870-79 there also a Mme Julie Morizot who regularly exhibited. She exhibited sculptures. (iR1) Maybe this explains why art-critics sometimes wrongly wrote the name of Berthe Morisot as Morizot (R2,p182+229+328).
Berthe Morisot and Edouard Manet:
In 1868 Fantin-Latour introduced Edouard Manet to Berthe Morisot. Soon afterwards she became his model. (Duret writes they both copied in 1861 in The Louvre, that they made acquintance in 1865 and 1868 onwards she frequently worked together; R7,p202/3) Manet made 11 portraits of her and exhibited 1 at the Salon of 1869 and 1 in 1873. Manet gave Berthe advice and encouragement, but she never was his pupil. Under the influence of Manet Morisot began to paint portraits (R7,p207). Otherwise Morisot inspired also Manet. It was Morisot who inspired Manet to paint in the open air (R42,p48;R93,p9R16,p247). It seems that Manet took an interest in Morisot her judgement on his works (R93,p10). They occasionally painted the same subjects. (R42,p15+16;R93,p9;R7,p204).
Morisot at the impressionist expositions:
Morisot showed 9+1hc=10 works at the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition 1874, including 3 watercolours and 3 pastels.
Morisot showed 19 works at the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition 1876, including 3 watercolours and 3 drawings/pastels.
G. d’Olby (1876/04/10) remarks ‘Mme Berthe Morisot only makes sketches…’ (R90I,p100).
Morisot showed 12+1hc=13 works at the 3rd ‘impressionist’ exposition 1877, including 4 pastels, 3 watercolours and 2 (watercolour)drawings .
Rivirère (1877/11/01) reviews ‘Mme Morisot is a pupil of M. Manet, that is to say that she sees nature by stains and not by the iridescence of the tones, in the way of M. Renoir. ‘ (R90I,p186)
Morisot showed 15 works at the 5th ‘impressionist’ exposition 1880, including 4 watercolours and 1 fan.
Dalligne (1880/04/16) reviews ‘Mme Berthe Morisot most often gives only drafts, but what finesse of tone, what a whiteness of colour (R90I,p274). A. E. (1880/04/05) reviews in ‘La justice’: ‘We were seduced and charmed to the utmost by Miss Morisot’s talent. We haven’t seen anything more delicate in painting. (R90I,p276).
Morisot showed 7+1hc=8 works at the 6th ‘impressionist’ exposition 1881, including probably 5 pastels.
C.E. reviews in ‘La Chronique des arts et de la curiosité’ (1881/04/23): ‘everything is brilliant and sweet harmony; … renders them with an extraordinarily delicate sense, by matte tones, which are a feast for the eyes. The shadow disappears or becomes so transparent that it is barely distinguishable; … For her the subjects are of secondary, almost insignificant importance; they’re just a pretext for light effects, for harmonious combinations, (…) the lines and contours are barely defined. (…) everything is of exquisite grace and charm, feminine and spring-like. (…) tonalities of a grey with azure and pink reflections where certain tones burst forth, as lively as small cries of birds.’ (R90I,p337). Geffroy (1881/04/19) reviews ‘The artist has found a way to fix the shimmering, the glow produced by the colours, the thrill of the moment and the air that surrounds them. (Her works) have pearl-like tones of an incredible transparency. The pink, the pale green, the vaguely golden light, sing with an inexpressible harmony. No one represents Impressionism with more refined talent and authority than Mrs. Morisot. (R90I,p343) André Michel (1881/04/05) reviews ‘It is again Mrs. Berthe Morisot who triumphs in the unfinished.’ (R90I,p359)
Morisot showed 9+4hc=13 works at the 7th ‘impressionist’ exposition 1882, including 3 pastels.
Burty (1882/03/08) reviews ‘She is, in the delicate sense of the word, the ultimate impressionist.’ (R90I,p382) Huysmans (1883) reviews in l’Art moderne ‘not one full and complete work.’ (R90I,p397) Silvestre (1882/03/11) reviews ‘But her drawing really becomes … too imaginary. Her canvases are nothing more than delicious stews of colour.’ (R90I,p414)
Morisot showed about 28 works at the 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition 1886, including several pastels, drawings, watercolours and fans.
Georges Auriol (1886/05/22) reviews ‘What she does is so delicate, so distinctive and so penetrating, that one feels immediately drawn towards her.’ (R90I,p434) Gustave Geffroy (1886/05/26 reviews (the works of Morisot) ‘have paleness likes pearls, transparent stains, transparencies like water’ (R90I,p450).
See link for an Account of the exhibited works (references, translations, info, discussion, location on Google-maps).
Morisot was only absent at the 4th exposition in 1879 when her baby, Julie Manet, was just a few months old (R93,p11). Berthe Morisot was highly esteemed among her colleague impressionists (R42,p21). Georges Rivière (1877) wrote that she earned a place in the forefront of the Impressionist group (R42,p29). Duret (1878) included her as one of the five ‘peintres impressionnistes’ (R5,p109). Several of her works were untitled or had very common titles, which makes indentification hard. In just a few of the titles there is an indication of time of day / season / weather, which is obvious for a woman who is reckoned among the key Impressionists.
It is unclear what motivated her to join the impressionists. It seems as if she was never rejected at the Salon. The paintings that she exhibited there had a lively brushstroke and were rather colourful.
Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet:
Berthe Morisot married Eugène Manet in 1874/12/22 (R5,p85;R42,p46;R93,10). Eugène also painted and was invited to join the 3th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1877, but out of modesty he refused (R93,p10). But he more than once was active in the preparations of the expositions, especially the 7th one in 1882 (R5,p-133;R2,p378). He did the compilation of the 1874 catalogue and he advised / decided how the paintings (of Morisot) were hung (R93,p10). In the 80s his health had become weak (R93,p12). Eugène Manet died in 1892. Berthe her hair turned grey and she never entirely would recover from her loss (R93,p16).
Berthe Morisot and Julie Manet:
Julie Manet, her daughter, was born 1878/11/14 (R93,p11). Julie would become Berthe her favorite model until her death (R42,p59). Julie herself started to draw and paint when she was quite young (R93,p13). In 1893, one year after her father died, Julie started a diary (R93,p17). After her mother died Julie Manet went to live again in the villa in Rue de Villejust, where already her nieces Paule en Jeannie Gobillard lived. Mallarmé was appointed as her guardian (R93,p17). Also Renoir and Degas took care of Julie. They both would advice her by her painting. (R93). Julie Manet married Ernest Rouart (the son Henri Rouart) in 1900/05/31. They would go and live in ‘Le Mesnil’ (R93,p16;iR4). Ernest also was a painter (R93).
Berthe Morisot her soirees:
The winter of 1885/6 onwards, Berthe Morisot held soirees in their villa at 40, Rue de Villejust (now: Rue Paul Valéry). The villa was build from 1881 till 1883. She organised soirees and invited guests like Caillebotte, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Duret, Mallarmé, Puvis de Chavannes and Whistler (R93,p12;R3;R31,p302).
Renoir and Morisot saw each other frequently and sometimes worked together on the same subjects. Under his influence she sometimes laid more emphasize on drawing and structure (R42,p64+72).
Berthe Morisot as an artist:
Berthe Morisot painted much during her many journeys; in Spain (1872), England / the Isle of Wight (1875) / Jersey (1886), Italy (1881), Belgium + Holland (1885) and many trips in France: the Pyrenees (1862). She perfected her works in her studio. Often her studio was a seperate part of the living room. (R42,p10+92;R93,p9+10) 1880-82 the Morisot family would spent summers in Mézy in ‘La maison Blotière’ (r93,p14). 1881-84 the Morisot family would spent the summers in Bougival, 4, Rue de la Princesse (R93,p12;R42,p59+92).
In 1868 Morisot meets Edouard Manet (see above) and Degas (R42,p92). Astruc, Degas, Monet, Corot, Fatin-Latour, Manet and Puvis de Chavannes visited the soirees of her mother (R93,p9;R42,p92).
Rey cals her ‘a painter of the early morning light’ (R42,p15). She renders the light as ‘a suffused radiance that comes from everywhere at once’ (R42,p37). Rey also writes: ‘beyond the sparkling gaiety of the light we can often glimpse in Morisot’s pictures a sad gaze… and it is this juxtaposition of apparent happiness and hidden sadness that is the secret of Berthe Morisot’s work’ (R42,p46). Depicting the changing city of Paris, Morisot became a painter of fleeting modernity (R42,p21).
Morisot made many watercolours. Guichard, her former teacher, called her ‘the best watercolorist’. Watercolours helped her by its rapid application to capture the passing moment. Often the faces are no more than suggested and the features are absorbed by the light. (R42,p48-51). Sometimes in her works features are more clearly outlined. Morisot uses a freedom of style in which she is ahead of her Impressionist friends, reducing reality to a series of luminous dots (R42,p51+58). Huysmans criticized her style as morbid and hysterical sketches (R42,p55). At the end she would reduce everything to flecks of colour or indications of light (R42,p72). As Rey writes: ‘the lighter the touch, the stronger is the power of suggestion’ (R42,p78).
Pastel painting is another favorite method of working of Morisot since 1871 (R42,p58). In 1887 + 88 she did some engraving in a style that is stripped to essentials (R42,p72). Morisot destroyed many of her early works (R42,p13). Morisot produced 416 oil paintings, 191 pastels, 240 watercolours, 8 engravings, 2 sculptures and 200 à 300 drawings (R42,p80).
Berthe Morisot, a short biography:
- 1841/01/15: Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot was born in Bourges in the centre of France (R42,p8; Other sources mention she was born the 14th;R7,p199;R3). She had 2 older sisters: Yves (1838-93; later Gobillard) and Edma (1840-1921; later Pontillon (R42,p8;R93,p2). Schurr and Cabanne mention Edma was born in 1839 in Valenciennes (R9,p544).
- 1848: her younger brother Tiburce was born (R93,p2)
- 1855: the family moved to Rue des Moulins (now: Rue Scheffer, Paris). Later on the family would live in 16, Rue Franklin (1865-72; here Berthe had her first studio), 7, Rue Guichard (1873-6). Roberts mentions that Berthe and her mother moved to Rue Guichard after the death of Berthe’s father (R93,p10), but the Salon database indicates she lived there already in 1873 (iR1).
- 1874, Januar: her father died (R42,p46;R93,p10)
- 1874/12/22: Berthe marries Eugène Manet (R5,p85)
- 1876: her mother died (R93,p10)
- 1876: Berthe moves to 9, Avenue d’Eylau (R42,p10;iR1;R93,p10-12)
- 1878/11/14: Julie Manet was born (R93,p11).
- 1881: start of the building of the villa at 40, rue Villejust (now: Rue Paul-Valéry, near Bois de Boulogne; the house counts 4 floors) (R42,p10;iR1;R93,p10-12)
- 1882: exhibition at George Petit (R3)
- 1887: exhibition at ‘XX‘ in Brussels (R3)
- 1890: moved to Mézy (R42,p92)
- 1892 winter: bought ‘Le Mesnil’ or Château du Mesnil-Saint-Laurent at the boards of the Seine, but Berthe didn’t spend much time there (R93,p14-16) Rey writes they bought it in 1891 (R42,p92), but according to Roberts that is when the negotiations started.
- 1892/04/13: her husband Eugène Manet died (R5,p184;R93,p16)
- 1892: Berthe moved with Julie to a smaller appartement 10, Rue Weber, Paris (R93,p17). According to others she did move in 1893 (R42,p92).
- 1892/05/04: first solo exhibition at Boussod and Valadon (R5,p185;R42,p92)
- 1894/02/15: exhibited at Libre Esthétique in Brussels (R5,p194;R42,p92)
- 1895/03/02: Berthe Morisot died (R42,p92;R93,p54)
- 1896/03/04: posthumous exhibition at Durand-Ruel (R42,p94). Julie Manet describes in her diary the works of her mother that were exhibited (R93,p81-95)
My main sources are Rey (1982=R42), the diary of Julie Manet (1990=R93), the Catalogue Raisonné of Bataille & Wildenstein (1960=R100;aR2), Moffett (1986=R2) and Berson (1986=R90) . Other main sources are Rewald (1973=R1), Walther (2013=R3,p683), Roe (2006=R4), Denvir (1993=R5), Pool (1987=R6), Duret 1878/1923=R7), Spiess (1993=R16,p245-7), Wikipedia (iR3), the RKD (iR24), Bénézit (iR69), Groove Art (iR70) and the Salon database (iR1). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the-Athenaeum (iR2; 332 images), Wikimedia (iR6), Google Art Project (=iR8), Mutual-art (iR11), artnet (iR13), Christies (=iR15) and Google Images (iR10). For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
For further reading see:
Bataille, M.L. and G. Wildenstein: Catalogue Raisonné of the oil paintings, pastels and watercolors of Berthe Morisot. Paris, 1961 (=R100).
Clairet, Alain; Rouart, Yves; Montlant, Delphine: Berthe Morisot, 1841-1895 : catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint. Montolivet, 1997 (=R186).
Rouart, Denis. (ed.): The correspondence of Berthe Morisot. New York, 1959.
Pfeiffer, Ingrid (ed.); Hollein, Max (ed.): Women impressionists : Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond. Ostfildern, 2007 / Frankfurt, 2008. (=R168).
Mathieu, Marianne : Berthe Morisot 1841-1895. Marmottan Paris, 2012 (=R169)
Additional references (=aR):
- Commons.Wikimedia (rendering the pictures from the Catalogue Raisonné of Bataille & Wildenstein of 1961=R100;=iR6)
- view publitas.com (great website rendering several Catalogues Raisonné, including the one of Bataille & Wildenstein on Morisot, starting with a biography (=R100;=iR181)
no. 1-416 (info on the oil paintings)
no.417-608 (info on the pastels)
no.609-847 (info on the watercolours)
p.73-155 (large pictures of the paintings etc, in black and white, not chronological)
p156-221 (small pictures of the oil paintings, in black and white, more or less chronological)
p222-248 (small pictures of the pastels, in black and white, more or less chronological)
p249-286 (small pictures of the watercolours, in black and white, more or less chronological)
p.287-302 (additional info)
- archive.org/morisot (possibility to read for 1 hour or to borrow the following book: Stuckey, Charles F.; Scott, William P.: Berthe Morisot: Impressionist. New York, 1987.)
- www.berthemorisot.nl (Dutch site of art-historian Karin Haanappel)
- www.youtube.org/morisot (slide show with works of Morisot; 28:51min.)
- morisotfilm.com (info on Dutch documentary by Klaas Bense)
- www.marmottan.fr/morisot (link to the collection of the Marmottan museum on Morisot)
- drawingdemystified.com (PDF article of R.J. Hughes, consisting of 10 pages)