One Talented Female Artist & Impressionist Berthe Morisot

Did you know that the female artist Berthe Morisot (Bourges 1841 – Paris 1895) was one of the pioneering French impressionists in the 19th century. In fact, during her life time, she was more successful than the other French artists, such as Monet, Degas and Renoir!!

Berthe Morisot painting a woman and her daughter-
Berthe Morisot Painting

So I ask, why is this extraordinary female artist lesser known than her Impressionism male peers?

I am guessing that if we ask most people to name three impressionism artists , they would say the famous trio Degas, Monet and Renoir? Or perhaps Toulouse-Lautrec or Manet?  So why was she overlooked and forgotten for such a long time?

“I do not think any man would ever treat a woman as his equal, and it is all I ask because I know my worth.”

Quote: Berthe Morisot 

Berthe Morisot - female impressionist
Berthe Morisot Painting [Public Domain]

Some interesting facts about Berthe Morisot – the non-conformist and talented impressionist

Morisot’s Supportive Mother

Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges and born into a wealthy family. It was obvious at a young age that Berthe and her sister were artistically gifted.

Their teacher, even warned their mother, saying

“With natures like those of your daughters my teaching will not confer the meagre talents of genteel accomplishment, they will become painters. Do you have any idea what that means? In your milieu of the grande bourgeoisie it would be a revolution”

Luckily for Berthe, her mother was not deterred. She continued to allow her two daughters to continue their education.

Berthe Morisot Gains Recognition at an Early Age

In 1864, when Berthe was just 23, the highly prestigious Salon de Paris accepted her paintings . This was an amazing accomplishment for a female artist in those times. 

The words of one critic:

‘You see, ladies, one may be an artist and take part in public exhibitions of painting and remain, as before, a very respectable and very charming person.’

And another critic wrote

“The truth is there is only one Impressionist in the group and it is Berthe Morisot. She has already been acclaimed and should continue to be so.”

Edouard Manet introduces Morisot to the Impressionists

In 1868, Berthe Morisot met one of the leaders of the impressionism art movement, Édouard Manet. They immediately became close friends and admired each other’s work.  

They also influenced and impacted on each other’s development throughout their artistic careers. There is even speculation that they may have been romantically involved, even though Manet was married.

Manet introduced her to the French impressionists, Renoir, Pissarro and Monet, who at this stage were far less successful than Morisot.

The impressionists use of color, choppy lines and visible brushwork intrigued Morisot. So much so, that she embraced their new ideas and techniques and joined their art movement.

The male impressionists valued her contribution and treated her as an equal which was unusual for those times and especially in the art world.

Morisot defies the art critics & aligns herself with the scorned Impressionism Art Movement

When the esteemed Salon rejected the Impressionists, Morisot promised to never exhibit her works there again. Instead, in 1874, Morisot exhibited at the first independent show of Impressionist paintings. Her artworks were showcased together with Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Monet and Sisley.

At the age of 33,  Morisot met Eugene Manet (the younger brother of Edouard Manet) in Fecamp in Normandy and they married. Eugene was also an artist but, uncharacteristically for that period, he gave up his own artistic career so that Morisot could pursue hers.

Her husband and their one daughter, Julie Manet, provided inspiration for some of her many beautiful art works.

Eugene Manet and their daughter Julie in the Garden: By the female artist Berthe Morisot
Eugene Manet and their daughter – Painting by the Female artist, Berthe Morisot [Public Domain]

Morisot died in 1895 at the young age of 54. She is buried in the Passy cemetery in Paris.

Berthe Morisot was not interested in selling her artworks

Since she came from a wealthy family, Morisot did not need to sell her art to support herself. So at the time of her death, most of her paintings remained in her studio.

The year after Morisot’s death, her friends, the French artists including Degas, Renoir, Monet and Mallarme, organized the first retrospective of Morisot’s artworks, drawing together 380 of her paintings and paying tribute to her talent.

Eugene Manet looking out the window - Painting by the female artist Berthe Morisot
Eugene Manet looking out the window – Berthe Morisot Paintings

Paris Museums Exhibiting Morisot’s Artwork

Morisot’s grandchildren donated many of her paintings to the Marmottan museum. The museum owns a stunning collection of over 80 of her artworks.

The D’Orsay Museum also displays a wonderful collection of Morisot’s paintings. Press here for more information.

Further Reading

I highly recommend a wonderful biography of the French artists, including Berthe Morisot, who participated in the impressionism art movement called: The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. Press here to read my review.

Another wonderful art historical fiction novel is La Luministe by Paula Butterfield. This book paints in words the complex life of the female artist & impressionist, Berthe Morisot in 19th century Paris. Her journey was a difficult one as she fought many battles – as woman, painter and impressionist. This novel portrays her talent and fierce determination despite all odds! Enjoy!

Portrait of Berthe Morisot by Eduoard Manet
Edouard Manet portrait of the Female artist Impressionist Berthe Morisot

See below for other articles about other female artists forgotten ​by the Art historians for a very long time