(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.
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.