Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot
Madame Eugène Manet

Berthe Morisot, 1875
Born Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot
(1841-01-14)January 14, 1841
Bourges, Cher, France
Died March 2, 1895(1895-03-02) (aged 54)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Known for Painting
Movement Impressionism
Spouse(s) Eugène Manet

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot (French: [mɔʁizo]; January 14, 1841  March 2, 1895) was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.[1]

In 1864, she exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris. Sponsored by the government, and judged by Academicians, the Salon was the official, annual exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris. Her work was selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons[2] until, in 1874, she joined the "rejected" Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. It was held at the studio of the photographer Nadar.

She was married to Eugène Manet, the brother of her friend and colleague Édouard Manet.

Early life and education

Berthe Morisot, Portrait de Mme Morisot et de sa fille Mme Pontillon ou La lecture (The Mother and Sister of the Artist - Marie-Joséphine & Edma) 1869/70

Morisot was born in Bourges, France, into an affluent bourgeois family. Her father, Edmé Tiburce Morisot, was the prefect (senior administrator) of the department of Cher. Her mother, Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie Thomas, was the great-niece of Jean-Honoré Fragonard, one of the most prolific Rococo painters of the ancien régime.[3] She had two older sisters, Yves (1838–1893) and Edma (1839–1921), plus a younger brother, Tiburce, born in 1848. The family moved to Paris in 1852, when Morisot was a child.

It was common practice for daughters of bourgeois families to receive art education, so Berthe and her sisters Yves and Edma were taught privately by Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne and Joseph Guichard. In 1857 Guichard introduced Berthe and Edma to the Louvre gallery where they could learn by looking, and from 1858 they learned by copying paintings. He also introduced them to the works of Gavarni.[4]

As art students, Berthe and Edma worked closely together until Edma married Adolphe Pontillon, a naval officer, moved to Cherbourg, had children, and had less time to paint. Letters between the sisters show a loving relationship, underscored by Berthe's regret at the distance between them and Edma's withdrawal from painting. Edma wholeheartedly supported Berthe's continued work and their families always remained close. Edma wrote “… I am often with you in thought, dear Berthe. I’m in your studio and I like to slip away, if only for a quarter of an hour, to breathe that atmosphere that we shared for many years…”.[5][6][7]

Her sister Yves married Theodore Gobillard, a tax inspector, in 1866, and was painted by Edgar Degas as Mrs Theodore Gobillard (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).[5][6][8]

Morisot registered as a copyist at the Louvre where she befriended other artists and teachers including Camille Corot, the pivotal landscape painter of the Barbizon School who also excelled in figure painting. In 1860, under Corot's influence she took up the plein air (outdoors) method of working. By 1863 she was studying under Achille Oudinot, another Barbizon painter. In the winter of 1863–64 she studied sculpture under Aimé Millet, but none of her sculpture is known to survive.[4]


Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, Musée d'Orsay
Berthe Morisot, Grain field, c.1875, Musée d'Orsay

Morisot's first appearance in the Salon de Paris came at the age of twenty-three in 1864, with the acceptance of two landscape paintings. She continued to show regularly in the Salon, to generally favorable reviews, until 1873, the year before the first Impressionist exhibition. She exhibited with the Impressionists from 1874 onwards, only missing the exhibition in 1878 when her daughter was born.[9]

Morisot's mature career began in 1872. She found an audience for her work with Durand-Ruel, the private dealer, who bought twenty-two paintings. In 1877, she was described by the critic for Le Temps as the "one real Impressionist in this group."[10] She chose to exhibit under her full maiden name instead of using a pseudonym or her married name.[11] In the 1880 exhibition, many reviews judged Morisot among the best, including Le Figaro critic Albert Wolff.[12]


Morisot and the Manets

In 1868 Morisot became friends with Édouard Manet who painted several portraits of her, including a striking study in a black veil while in mourning for her father. Correspondence between them shows warm affection, and Manet gave her an easel as a Christmas present. To her dismay he interfered with one of her Salon submissions whilst he was engaged to transport it, mistaking her self-criticism as an invitation to add corrections. Manet wrote: "The young Morisot girls are charming. It's annoying that they are not men. However, as women, they could serve the cause of painting by each marrying a member of the French Academy and sowing discord in the camp of those dotards." [13]

Although Manet is regarded as the master and Morisot as the follower, there is evidence that their relationship was reciprocal.[14] Records show Manet's appreciation of her distinctive original style and compositional decisions, some of which he incorporated into his own work. It was Morisot who persuaded Manet to attempt plein air painting, which she had been practicing since having been introduced to it by Corot.[15]

Morisot drew Manet into the circle of painters who became known as the Impressionists. In 1874, she married Manet's brother, Eugène, and they had one daughter, Julie, who became the subject for many of her mother's paintings. Julie's memoirs, Growing Up with the Impressionists: The Diary of Julie Manet, were published in 1987.

Style and technique

Jeune Fille au Manteau Vert by Berthe Morisot. Oil on canvas, circa 1894

Morisot’s works are almost always small in scale. She worked in oil paint, watercolors, or pastel, and sketched using various drawing media. Around 1880 she began painting on unprimed canvases—a technique Manet and Eva Gonzalès also experimented with at the time[16]—and her brushwork became looser. In 1888–89, her brushstrokes transitioned from short, rapid strokes to long, sinuous ones that define form.[17] The outer edges of her paintings were often left unfinished, allowing the canvas to show through and increasing the sense of spontaneity. After 1885, she worked mostly from preliminary drawings before beginning her oil paintings.[18]

Among her contemporary art critics such as Gustave Geoffrey in 1881, Morisot was hailed as "no one represents Impressionism with more refined talent or more authority than Morisot" [19]

Morisot creates a sense of space and depth through the use of color. Although her color palette was somewhat limited, her fellow impressionists regarded her as a "virtuoso colorist".[18] She typically made expansive use of white, whether used as a pure white or mixed with other colors. In her large painting, The Cherry Tree, colors are more vivid but are still used to emphasize form.[18]


Bergère nue couchée (Shepherdess - reclining nude) by Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot, The Artist's Daughter Julie with her Nanny, c. 1884. Minneapolis Institute of Art

Morisot painted what she experienced on a daily basis. Her paintings reflect the 19th-century cultural restrictions of her class and gender. She avoided urban and street scenes and seldom painted the nude figure. Like her fellow Impressionist Mary Cassatt, she focused on domestic life and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models, including her daughter Julie and sister Edma. Prior to the 1860s, Morisot painted subjects in line with the Barbizon school before turning to scenes of contemporary femininity.[20] Paintings like The Cradle (1872), in which she depicted current trends for nursery furniture, reflect her sensitivity to fashion and advertising, both of which would have been apparent to her female audience. Her works also include landscapes, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes. Later in her career Morisot worked with more ambitious themes, such as nudes.[21] Corresponding with Morisot's interest in nude subjects, Morisot also began to focus more on preliminary drawings, completing many drypoints, charcoal, and color pencil drawings.[22]

Personal life

Morisot was married to Eugène Manet, the brother of her friend and colleague Édouard Manet, from 1874 until his death in 1892. In 1878 she gave birth to her only child, Julie, who posed frequently for her mother and other Impressionist artists, including Renoir and her uncle Édouard.


Morisot died on 2 March 1895, in Paris, of pneumonia contracted while attending to her daughter Julie's similar illness, and thus orphaning her at the age of 16. She was interred in the Cimetière de Passy.

Popular culture

She was portrayed by actress Marine Delterme in the eponymous 2012 French biographical TV film directed by Caroline Champetier. The character of Beatrice de Clerval in Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves is largerly based on Morisot.[23]

Art market

Morisot's work sold comparatively well. She achieved the two highest prices at a Hôtel Drouot auction in 1875, the Interior (Young Woman with Mirror) sold for 480 francs, and her pastel On the Lawn sold for 320 francs.[24][25] Her works averaged 250 francs, the best relative prices at the auction.[26]

In February 2013, Morisot became the highest priced female artist, when After Lunch (1881), a portrait of a young redhead in a straw hat and purple dress, sold for $10.9 million at a Christie's auction. The painting achieved roughly three times its upper estimate,[27][28][28][29] exceeding the $10.7 million for a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois in 2012.[27]


La Coiffure

Selection of Works

This list is incomplete, you can help by expanding it with certified entries.

This limited selection is based in part on the book Berthe Morisot by Charles F. Stuckey, William P. Scott and Susan G. Lindsay, which is in turn drawn from the 1961 catalogue by Marie-Louise Bataille, Rouaart Denis and Georges Wildenstein. There are variations between the dates of execution, first showing and purchase. Titles may vary between sources.

Early years of Impressionism, 1864-1874

Expertise and innovation 1875-1883

Fully developed 1884-1894


Portraits of Berthe Morisot

See also


  1. The scene L'Entrée du port is often confused with L'Entrée du port de Cherbourg purchased in 1874 by Durand-Ruel, or confused with Le Port de Cherbourg


  1. Geffroy, Gustave (1894), "Histoire de l'Impressionnisme", La Vie artistique: 268.
  2. Denvir, 2000, pp. 29-79.
  3. Higonnet, p. 5
  4. 1 2 Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. pp. 11–25. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  5. 1 2 Yves peinte par Degas
  6. 1 2 (Stuckey et al, p. 16)
  7. Women in the Act of Painting, 9 November 2012, Edma and Berthe by Nancy Bea Miller
  8. Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet, Berthe Morisot, at Google Books. Page 32
  9. Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (Fifth ed.). London: Thames & Hudson Inc. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-500-20405-4.
  10. Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (5th ed.). London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-500-20405-4.
  11. Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 139. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  12. Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 158. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  13. Phillips, Ian (2002). Berthe Morisot: Capturing something of what goes by. London: Elsevier Limited.
  14. Turner, 2000, p. 319.
  15. "Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)". Paul van Rensburg Gallery of Art.
  16. National Museum of Women in the Arts: "The Cage", retrieved November 24, 2014.
  17. Mongan, Elizabeth (1960). Berthe Morisot, Drawings Pastels, Watercolors. New York: Shorewood Publishing Co. p. 20.
  18. 1 2 3 Stuckey, Charles F.; Scott, William P. (1987). Berthe Morisot: Impressionist. New York: Hudson Hills Press. pp. 187–207. ISBN 0-933920-03-2.
  19. Thompkins Lewis, Mary (1991). Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet; Perspectives on Morisot by T. J. Edelstein. New York: College Art Association. p. 94.
  20. Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 26. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  21. Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 102. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  22. Stuckey, Charles F. (1987). Berthe Morisot Impressionist. New York: Hudson Hills Press. pp. 126–130. ISBN 0-933920-04-0.
  23. Trisha, Managing Editor (17 Nov 2009). "Sneak peek: Elizabeth Kostova's 'The Swan Thieves'". Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  24. Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (5th ed.). London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-500-20405-4.
  25. Higonnet, Anne (1990). Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 124. ISBN 0-06-016232-5.
  26. Shennan, Margaret (1996). Berthe Morisot: The First Lady of Impressionism. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited. p. 173. ISBN 0-7509-1226 X.
  27. 1 2 Kelly Crow and Mary M. Lane (February 6, 2013), Christie's Breaks World Record Price for Female Artist Wall Street Journal.
  28. 1 2 Ellen Gamerman and Mary M. Lane (April 18, 2013), Women on the Verge Wall Street Journal.
  29. Katya Kazakina (May 14, 2014), Billionaires Help Christie’s to Record $745 Million Sale Bloomberg.
  30. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 23)
  31. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 24)
  32. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 11)
  33. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 12)
  34. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 34)
  35. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 35)
  36. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 40)
  37. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 41)
  38. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 45)
  39. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 46)
  40. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 47)
  41. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 260)
  42. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 419)
  43. Madame Pontillon, descriptif actuel
  44. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 42)
  45. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 53)
  46. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 51)
  47. 1 2 (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 56)
  48. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 28)
  49. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 34)
  50. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 61)
  51. 1 2 (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 63)
  52. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 427)
  53. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 64)
  54. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 65)
  55. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 61)
  56. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 52)
  57. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 69)
  58. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 51)
  59. 1 2 (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 71)
  60. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 73)
  61. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 81)
  62. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 59)
  63. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 64)
  64. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 434)
  65. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 75)
  66. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 78)
  67. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 81)
  68. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 82)
  69. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 83)
  70. Robert Rosenblum, Paintings in the Musée D’Orsay, p. 305, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (1989).
  71. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 85)
  72. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 91)
  73. 1 2 (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 112)
  74. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 113)
  75. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 95)
  76. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 138)
  77. voir La Fable
  78. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 96)
  79. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 97)
  80. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 154)
  81. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 101)
  82. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 98)
  83. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 103)
  84. aperçu de la toile Meule de foin
  85. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 104)
  86. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 105)
  87. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 107)
  88. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 109)
  89. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 110)
  90. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 111)
  91. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 115)
  92. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 117)
  93. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 120)
  94. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 122)
  95. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 121)
  96. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 197)
  97. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 127)
  98. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 128)
  99. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 129)
  100. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 750)
  101. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 131)
  102. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 133)
  103. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 134)
  104. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 542)
  105. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 142)
  106. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 147)
  107. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 152)
  108. (Bataille Wildenstein, p. 275)
  109. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 155)
  110. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 165)
  111. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 172)
  112. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 173)
  113. (Stuckey, Scott Lindsay, p. 174)


Wikisource has the text of a 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article about Berthe Morisot.

External links

External video
Morisot's The Mother and Sister of the Artist, (3:35)
Video Postcard: Woman at Her Toilette (1875/80) on YouTube, (1:58) Art Institute of Chicago
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