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Berthe Morisot

Honors Art History

Gage Gailbreath

This booklet was made to examine the artwork of Berthe Morisot and the development behind her style. It will look at her past events and influence that led to her style. Then it will display some of her most famous works along with a short analysis of each. Morisot style mirrored that of Manet as she was trained by him. Morisot took on the branch of impressionism where she looked at more respectable people in everyday life as opposed to brothels and trains.

Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France on January 14, 1841 to Marie Cornelie Thomas and Edme Tiburce Morisot. Her mother and father married when her mother was 16 and they had four children. Edme Tiburce Morisot studied architecture and painting at a young age, but worked in the French government. Her grandfather painted aristocratic gardens at a school and was the reason Berthe Morisot pursued art. Her sister also studied art and was a major critic in perfecting Berthe’s art, resulting in a strong bond between them. Initially, at the age of ten, she moved to Paris and took art lessons under Joseph-Benoit Guilchard, but as she developed her own style of art, she began to abandon the teachings of him. As a result, she came under the influence of and painted for one of Guilchard’s friends, Camille Cordot. This is where Berthe first began to show her works and follow the influence of Cordot, however, she eventually left and learned under Edouard Manet. Manet drew her away from classical techniques and exposed her to the developing form of impressionism. Aside from being a painter, she was also the subject of Manet’s paintings, the most notable being, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets. Due to her close relationship with Manet, she eventually married his brother and had one child. She died in March 2, 1895 of pneumonia.

Joseph-Benoit Guilchard

Her Life

Camille Cordot

Edouard Manet

Morisot was a leading figure in expressing the impressionist style many were taking on at the time. Impressionism began to focus more on the common scenes and every day location as opposed to the classical approach of viewing pristine places. Due to this many impressionist works were unable to make it to shows and auctions. Morisot’s focus on more formal situations and choosing to only portray respectable women allowed her works to be displayed and grow an interest in the viewers for impressionist works. Impressionist often focused on everyday situations using differences in light and pastel colors to paint a bright scene. Much of Morisot’s works focused on these aspects.

Her Style

In Morisot’s works, she used a couple mediums. Watercolor was her most notable one as it allowed her to produce the bright hue and create a more involving atmosphere of the painting. While studying under Monet, she was taught to abandon the use of black and rely only on the bright pallet of impressionism. At a young age, she was trained by Guilchard, her grandfather, and Cordot in the classical way of art. As her style progressed, she gradually learned impressionism from Manet and eventually came under the influence of Renoir. During her life, her morals to only portray respectable women rather than those of brothels often resulted in formal scenes rather than everyday life. Her mother and her sister also had a large impact in her work as they often appeared in many of her pieces. Lastly, once her child was born, the focus of her pieces began to shift towards family life and domestic scenes. 

Due to the Franco-Prussian war funding was decreased for the artists and the impressionist artists had to fund their own show to display their art. This where many artists’ works began to make impressionism famous, but it still was not acknowledged until later. In a last attempt by the group representing the impressionists, they attempted an auction which turned out to be a failure. Although Morisot’s style was not accepted by many of the time, later on, her works became a strong example of the impressionist style.

Her Style Cont.

Le Berceau(The Cradle):

oil

1872

Musée d'Orsay

This shows a well dressed lady looking into a cradle draped with a white cloth. It displays her approach to motherly figures as delicate and caring to their child. The use of bright light to give the cradle an angelic feel is characteristic of impressionist style.

Famous Works

Femme à sa toilette(Lady at her Toilette):

oil

1875

Art Institute of Chicago

Morisot displays a lady in a white dress looking into a mirror, preparing for something. This is Morisot’s way of displaying a woman in an everyday task while still making the painting beautiful enough to attract viewers. Little to no black is used in the painting except for the necklace.

Sur la terrasse(On the Terrace):

oil

1874

Musée du Petit Palais

Morisot shows a lady sitting on her terrace facing the viewer while the background is a ocean side view. This captures an everyday event for the lady on the terrace while also showing a play with light in the background on the sea and on the houses.

Femme et enfant au balcon(Woman and child on the balcony):

watercolor

1871/2

Art Institute of Chicago

The use of watercolor as the medium results in a bright painting shows the view of a city. It portrays a bright scene of a woman and a child looking off at the city past the water.

Famous Works Cont.

Summer’s Day:

oil

1879

National Gallery

In Summer’s Day, two ladies are portrayed on the water on a bright summer day. One of them in observing the wildlife painted in the background and the other is looking towards the canvas with a book in her lap.

La Cueillette des oranges(Picking Oranges):

pastel

1889

Musée d'art et d'histoire de Provence

Morisot shows a woman picking oranges from a lower perspective. The use of pastel results in defined portions and a more sketch-like appearance to the painting, but also allows for solid shading and blending of colors.

La Cueillette des oranges

One of the paintings I chose was La Cueillette des oranges. I like the simplistic approach to the surroundings and the perspective. From the point of view given, it seems as though the lady in in the cover of the tree rather than being outside reaching in. It is also clear that she is there for leisure rather than for work as she is ignoring many of the oranges close to her and choosing the one that she wants.The predominate and seemingly only colors are yellow and blue. These two colors make up the lady, tree, background, and combine to form the green hues. This painting shows the impressionist style as it shows a lady doing an everyday task of retrieving an orange in a very simplistic manner. I am drawn to the use of pastel as it unique among her works. Pastel was a rare medium among her works as she focused mostly on oil and watercolor. I was also draw to the use of only two colors. The two main colors make up all of the major hues and subjects, some red is used to add some accents, but only yellow, blue, and their combinations make up the painting. This painting makes me think of Boone Hall Farms. At Boone Hall Farms, you can pick fruit and vegetables that are in season. It particularly reminds me of the peach trees that you can pick the fruit off of there.

The other painting that I liked was Summer’s Day. I liked the use of straight strokes of various sizes which compose the painting. A feature that I particularly enjoyed is in the way that she shades in the closing. Instead of using a solid color and making the texture uniform, she makes multiple layers of various colors to result in a grainy looking dress. This is the same case for the water and the background. This makes the painting seem distorted, yet light at the same time. It reminds me of when you were a child and would look through prism glasses. These would distort your view into geometric shapes of solid color, but you could still make out what you were looking at. It also reminds me of a summer’s fishing trip in that you are on the lake in a boat viewing wildlife. The most dominant colors are green and white. Green is used to compose the greenery in the background while the white is used to make the lady’s dress and light on the water. The painting shows two ladies out on the water viewing wildlife in the summer. Morisot’s use of light in the reflections on the water and the bright color pallet used in the entire painting shows the rainbow-like nature of impressionism. She also painted a traditional boat view seen anytime someone is out on the water. The painting’s brightview and the portrayal of the wildlife drew my appeal for the painting. I also found it interesting the confused expression the lady on the right has when she is looking at the viewer.

Summer's Day