Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist

One of the things that brought me the most joy in 2018 was visiting art museums and seeing new exhibits. I decided I wanted to do more of the same in 2019!

If you want a 2019 full of joy, check out my Design Your Dream 2019 post and start planning a new year full of positive emotions and happy vibes ASAP!

Bursting with anticipation outside the Barnes Foundation

I visited the Barnes Foundation last week to see their exhibit “Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist” (1841-1895). I’ve always loved impressionist art. Pierre-Auguste Renoir is my favorite painter, and I’ve always been touched by the mother-and-child paintings of Mary Cassatt. I knew little about Morisot and her work before seeing her pieces displayed in this special gallery. My sister suggested we go, and I’m so thrilled we caught the exhibit before it ended!

At the Ball, 1876

Berthe was an exceptional talent and a major artist of her time. She worked alongside Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; these men were her peers, whose work she influenced and whom she, in turn, was influenced by. According to the Barnes’ curators, “Morisot explored impressionist themes of modernity: the intimacy of contemporary bourgeois living and family life, the taste for resorts and gardens, the importance of fashion, and women’s domestic work.”

What I found particularly meaningful was that she explored modern topics, like showing women at work in the 19th century. She even went so far as to paint her children’s wet nurse! When was the last time you saw the Kardashians post a picture of their children’s nanny on Instagram? That’s right: never. Morisot was radically ahead of her time.

The Wet Nurse (Wet Nurse and Baby), 1880

The Fence at Bougival, 1884

Her work is sketchlike and appears unfinished. When I looked closely at the edges of some of the paintings, there were broad brush strokes that suggested what should be there rather than explicitly showing it like a realistic portrait. A 21st century comparison that comes to mind for me is a bare-faced 10-second video Miranda Kerr might post to her Instagram story (impressionism) vs a highly editorialized photo shoot you would see of her in Vogue (stylized realism). Both serve a purpose. Both tell an equally important story.

Nude Seen From Behind, 1885

Most women in the bourgeois class in Morisot’s time painted as a hobby, but gave it up once they married. In fact, Morisot’s sister Edma Morisot did just that. Not so with Berthe Morisot; when Berthe married Eugène Manet (the brother of Édouard Manet), Eugène Manet gave up painting to support his wife’s career!

“Work is the sole purpose of my existence. . . . Indefinitely prolonged idleness would be fatal to me from every point of view.”

Berthe Morisot, 1871

Manet was the subject of quite a few of Morisot’s paintings.

The frames that displayed Morisot’s pieces were golden and ornate, equal to the task of displaying her stunning work.

Young Girl with a Dog

These were my favorite pieces:

I found this piece below amusing. I like the subject’s sassy face. If this were a meme, it would read, “My face when I’m watching the heroine of a Lifetime movie make questionable decisions.”

Young Woman on a Divan, 1885

Below is a self-portrait of the artist at work. As with many of her subjects, Morisot captured herself in motion, mid-thought. It’s a contemplative piece – it quietly demands you stop and observe every subtle detail:

Self-portrait, 1885

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Berthe Morisot and seeing her masterful artwork. I hope the paintings above inspire you and bring a little beauty to your day.

What things are you doing this month to spark joy? What has inspired you lately?

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