The Artist Berthe Morisot

Born in Bourges, Cher, France, in 1841, the French painter Berthe Morisot was part of the first wave of Impressionist painters. Undervalued for decades (possibly due to her status as a woman), Morisot’s work is now highly regarded for its many merits and Morisot’s place among painters like Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and others is confirmed for her fine artistry and not merely her proximity to such figures. Some of her most celebrated works include Reading (1873) and The Cradle (1872).

Although Morisot created a beautiful portfolio of work during her career, she is, perhaps, best known as a model for Manet’s striking portrait of her, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets (1872) where she is garbed in black and stares out of the portrait directly. Of all the Impressionists in her circle, Morisot was most closely associated with Manet. It is believed she introduced him to plein air painting. While art historians have historically suggested Manet had a stronger influence on her work, they now believe that the working relationship was more reciprocal than otherwise. Morisot married Manet’s brother Eugene in 1874. Morisot is also credited for drawing Manet into the circle of early Impressionist painters.

Morisot hailed from a bourgeois family. Her family’s success enabled her to study art, but their support may have been founded on the fact of their relation to the Rococo painter Jean-Honore Fragonard. Morisot painted alongside her sister Edma. Edma’s study was cut short once she married and had children. Berthe studied under the landscape artist Camille Corot. Morisot’s first Salon showing came in 1864. The Salon regularly included her work for many years where it was reviewed favorably.

However, the year after the Salon excluded her paintings from their exhibition she chose to exhibit the following year with the Impressionists at the famed exhibit held at the studio of photographer Nadar alongside artists Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas. Her works typically featured garden and domestic scenes, children, portraits, boating parties, and landscapes.

Among her other notable works are At the Ball (1875), On the Balcony (1872), Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight (1875), Summer Day (1875), and Dame L’Ombrelle (1881). Morisot died at the age of fifty-four in 1895. She and Eugene Manet had one daughter, Julie. Julie is the subject of many of Morisot’s paintings such as Child Among Staked Roses (1881). Not only has Morisot’s significance to the Impressionist movement been recognized, but her paintings reside in the collections of the world’s most revered art museums.