30 January 2024

Berthe Morisot: Things You Can't See In A Painting

(T)here is only one true Impressionist in the whole revolutionary group - and that is Mlle Berthe Morisot." - Paul Mantz, 1877 

When the Barnes Foundation organized their Berthe Morisot retrospective in 2018, they called it "Morisot: Woman Impressionist." Cue the Greek chorus. But that moniker obscures as much as it reveals. Morisot felt no impulse to eroticize her female subjects as male artists did; she foregrounded their subjectivity, their interior focus. She was able to reveal the life of women as she had experienced it herself. After her death in 1895, Morisot's star faded and, with it, her critical reputation. Almost a century would pass before Tamar Garb and Kathleen Adler addressed her erasure from Impressionist history.

Scumble: to soften or blend an outline with a thin wash. Morisot's paintings were praised for their luminous quality, a technique she adapted from the her work with Corot who taught her to paint outdoors. Kept out of traditional (male) art classes, young Berthe was tutored at home.

On the advice of Pissarro, in 1858, Manet, Degas, and Morisot applied to the Copyists' Office at the Louvre for permission to set up their easels in the galleries. By 1864, Morisot's paintings were hanging in the Salon de Paris.

Unlike her friends,  Berthe Morisot did not have to soften her experimental inclinations to suit the tastes of potential patrons; her bourgeois background provided Morisot with economic security. On the other hand, she did not share their freedom to go on painting expeditions to the country in search of interesting subjects or spend her evenings soaking in the ambience of urban cafes. Fortunately, her family welcomed her unconventional friends into their home, so long as the young men were presentable.

Morisot's mother was the great niece of the great 18th century painter Fragonard. In her work the lilacs and the grays become gestural scratches that are halfway to abstraction.

The young woman with long red hair was Berthe Morisot's daughter, and frequent model, Julie Manet.

Berthe Morisot - Two Girls, 1894, oil on canvas, Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.
Berthe Morisot - Self- Portrait, 1885, oil on canvas, Musee Marmottan Manet, Paris.

12 January 2024

Aymeric Fouquez: A Quiet Eye

"This landscape looks like a secret
because the river can't be seen
from the spot where I am standing.
And there fore it is
the landscape where I most easily
would be able to do without myself.
Among there green hills and blue mountains
my person
almost feels an insult."
    - excerpt from "The River's Secret" by Hendrik Nordbrandt, translated from the Danish by John Irons

The mostly grey and white palette of Ayermic Fouquez reminds me of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi, with its silvery greys and pale colors. Unemphatic, yet memorable. Fouquez finds poetry in otherwise unremarkable common landscapes. The photographs  capture a singular instant but I sense a prolonged meditative process in Fouquez's selection of the moment. In his work the horizon is low and flat but remember that Denmark is bordered by Germany.

Born in Chateau-Thierry in France, Fouquez studied photography at l'Ecole nationale superieure in Arles. Aymeric lives in Cologne, Germany.

Image: Aymeric Fouquez, from the series Nord (North), 2006-2018, separable chromographic prints, Pompidou Center, Paris.

Ebisu Catching a Goldfish

But perhaps   the heart

Does not want   to be understood. 

Your shadow   falls on its pond

and the small fish   hurry away.

They have   their own lives,

not yours, which they love.

And if to you   it is anger,

bewilderment,   grief,

to them   it is simply life:

their mouths   open and close,

their gills,   they are fed,   they breathe.

The gods   are not large,

outside us,   they are the fish, 

going on   wit their own concerns."

"The Gods Are Not Large" by Jane Hirshfield, from The October Palace, New York, Harper Perennial: 1994.

Image: Katsushika Hokusai - Ebisu Catching a Goldfish, circa 1830, Museum of Asian Arts, Berlin.