Berthe Morisot

1841 - 1895

Place Born


Place Died



Berthe Morisot’s came from a well-educated, conservative and cultured family; she and her sister, Edma, were first taught to draw by their father, a monarchist and senior civil servant. As children she and her sister moved wherever their father’s career took them, finally settling in Passy in 1852. Five years later Berthe and Edma took their first formal artistic instruction from a minor academic portraitist and history painter, Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne, later studying with the noted Lyons artist, Joseph Guichard. It was Corot, however, with whom Berthe Morisot studied from 1862-68, who influenced her first landscapes, advising her to work en plein air in the forest at Fontainebleau where she also met Daubigny and Guillemet. In 1868 Henri Fantin-Latour introduced her to Edouard Manet, who was to be the most profound influence on her career and whose painterly technique the young Morisot adopted with enthusiasm. Manet asked Morisot to pose for Le Balcon, the first of many of Manet’s canvases in which she would appear; their association led to the Morisot and Manet families becoming friends. She met Manet’s younger brother, Eugéne, during a summer the families spent together and in December 1874 the two were married.

Though her first submissions to the Salon in 1864 had been well received, and she continued to exhibit there until 1873, she stopped sending work after the 1874 Nader studio exhibition, preferring thenceforth to show with the Impressionists. In 1874 she showed four oils, three pastels, and two watercolors and her works received a few amiable comments; two years later she showed another thirteen oils. By 1876 the critics had noted the emergence of a distinct “impressionist” style, and Morisot’s wholehearted embrace of its forms was not received universally well. Arthur Baignéres wrote: “she pushes the system to its extreme, and we feel all the more sorry about this as she has rare talent as a colorist,”[1] while another critic considered that “she particularly is the victim of the system of painting that she adopted.”[2] It was around this time she began focusing on painting out of doors; light became the most important aspect of her pictures as darting brushwork replaced her earlier more conventional style.

Morisot’s favorite subject, her daughter Julie, was born four years after her marriage to Eugéne. Unlike her sister, Morisot balanced her role of wife and mother with that of artist, continuing to paint, something she had thought earlier to be an impossibility; she had assumed she would have to sacrifice marriage and motherhood for her art. The Manet family lived quietly, preparing for Impressionist shows, traveling (trips to Italy in 1881 and 1882 immensely affected her landscapes) and entertaining their artist friends who including Renoir, Degas and Whistler. The 1890’s saw another change in Morisot’s style, outline returned to her painting and stronger forms lent weight to the compositions. She withdrew somewhat with the death of her husband in 1892, preparing for her first solo show and spending time with her daughter and nieces. Morisot died in 1895, catching influenza while nursing her ill daughter.

The sentimentality and sweetness sometimes found in Morisot’s figure paintings, harkening back at times to Fragonard and the 18th century painters, seemed at odds with all descriptions of her personality, suggesting that she painted a peaceful world she sought, not experienced. Her subjects were serene, images of mothers and children, young girls, seascapes, and views of town and country, but she was just the opposite: ambitious, stern and characterized by her husband as having “only an empty shell of a heart.” Her painting was a brave and hopeful face of happiness that masked the despair and insecurity that haunted her throughout her entire life. Morisot was highly self-critical and demanding, yet she was a loving mother and inspired passionate friendships with her contemporaries Degas, Monet, Renoir, Puvis de Chavannes, Mallarmé and the young Henri de Régnier, her presence seeming to calm their quarrels. NOTES
[1] Arthur Baignéres, L’Echo Universel, 13 April 1876 (cited in San Francisco, The New Painting, Impressionism 1874-1886, 1986, p. 182).

[2] Charles Bigot, La Revue Politiques et Littéraire, 8 April 1876 (cited in San Francisco, 1986, op.cit, p. 182).

Art Works Sold

Landscape at Gennevilliers

Sold or not Available
Historical Period: 1840-1900 Realism to Impressionism
Landscape at Gennevilliers