Five Famous Berthe Morisot Paintings You Should Know!
Impressionism Snapshots of 19th Century Paris
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) was a French impressionist painter and one of the very few female artists who belonged to the inner circle of the impressionists. She worked closely with all the male impressionism giants such as Edouard Manet, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley .
Berthe Morisot – Determined and Defiant!
Berthe Morisot was a female trailblazer of her time. Morisot defied all social norms to become a professional artist. In the 19th century, art was a male-dominated world. Respectable women were expected to marry and raise children only. However, Berthe Morisot broke the all the rules to become a professional artist. She also continued to defy the art world by painting in the revolutionary impressionism style.
Many of Berthe Morisot’s paintings depict her own family. These include paintings of her husband and daughter and also snapshots of family moments. Morisot also loved capturing every day scenes of contemporary upper-class society in 19th century France.
Like many of the other impressionism painters, Morisot was a master of simplification. She used just enough detail to get the message across to the viewer.
Berthe Morisot was more successful than Manet, Monet & Renoir!
During her lifetime, Berthe Morisot was more successful than many of her male contemporaries, such as Monet, Sisley, and Renoir. However, when she died, the male art world overlooked Morisot’s art works and her contribution to the impressionism art movement.
However, in more recent years, the art world has rediscovered her beautiful paintings. Berthe Morisot has now returned to her rightful place in the 19th century impressionism art movement and her paintings are hanging on the walls in the most prominent art museums around the world.
Below is a list of five of Berthe Morisot’s most famous paintings and the stories behind them.
Five Famous Berthe Morisot Paintings & the Stories Behind Them
1. The Cradle (1872)
The Cradle is one of Berthe Morisot’s most famous paintings. In this beautiful painting, Morisot portrays her sister, Edma (who was also a talented artist), with her new-born daughter Blanche. It is the first of many paintings of motherhood that Morisot painted.
The Cradle was displayed for the first time at the first Impressionism exhibition in 1874. The art critics barely noticed this painting and it received very little attention. Morisot tried selling this painting but was unsuccessful. It remained with Edma and her daughter’s family until the Louvre purchased it in 1930.
Today The Cradle is hanging on the walls of the prestigious Musee D’Orsay.
2. Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight (1875)
This beautiful Berthe Morisot painting depicts her husband, Eugène Manet (the brother of Edouard Manet), who she wed in 1874. They spent their honeymoon on the Isle of Wight, in the English Channel. This place was a popular holiday destination for the English upper class.
While there, both Eugene and Berthe spent time exploring the island and painting its natural beauty. Sometimes Morisot set up her easel in their hotel bedroom and painted what she saw from the window. In this painting, she managed to convince Eugene to pose for her by looking out of the window. Apparently he wasn’t such an agreeable model!
Eugene Manet was also an artist but he gave up painting so that he could support and assist Berthe Morisot with her painting career! What a man!!
You can view this lovely painting in the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris.
Not related to this painting but a great piece of gossip! Apparently Berthe Morisot fell in love with the impressionist, Édouard Manet. However Edouard was a married man and so Morisot married his brother Eugene instead.
3. Woman at Her Toilette (1875-80)
Berthe Morisot once again paints another intimate domestic scene. In this painting, she captures a fashionable Parisian bourgeois woman fixing her hair in front of a mirror. This impressionism snapshot of the moment is created by Morisot’s use of wispy and vibrant brush strokes.
Berthe Morisot exhibited this painting at the fifth Impressionism exhibition in 1880 and it received positive reviews. In the same year, her very close friend & a fellow impressionist, Édouard Manet, also painted Before the Mirror, a similar painting. Given the closeness between the two artists, it is possible, that one inspired the other!
This painting can be found on the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago.
4. Eugène Manet and his Daughter in the Garden (1883)
This beautiful painting captures an intimate moment of Morisot’s husband, Eugène Manet, and their only daughter, Julie. The painting is set in the garden of their home in Bougival, where they were living in the summer of 1883.
Interestingly, Morisot never exhibited this painting publicly. It seems that she painted it for her family only. This painting only made its debut to the public eye in 1896, a year after Morisot died.
This canvas is one of many paintings that Berthe Morisot painted of her small family.
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5. View of Paris from the Trocadero (1871-72)
This is one of Morisot’s earlier paintings. It was finished soon after the Franco-Prussian War ended. It captures a scenic view of Paris from the Trocadero hill top, today the site of the Palais de Chaillot.
The canvas depicts a child and two fashionably-dressed bourgeois women. Both are leaning against a railing with a view of Paris in the distance. Morisot depicts a few famous buildings such as the Palais d’Industrie, Notre Dame, Les Invalides, and The Tuileries Gardens. This painting was made before the erection of the Eiffel tower.
Does the Railing Symbolize the Social Restrictions Placed on Women in the 19th Century?
This painting is not only a snapshot of Morisot’s observation of a scene, but also a statement of Morisot’s viewpoint on life. The railing symbolizes both the physical and social barrier placed on women in the 19th century. In those times, it was undesirable for respectable women to move freely without male escorts. Even being a female artist in those times was unheard of. Berthe Morisot, together with a handful of other female artists, worked tirelessly to break down these barriers.
You can view this oil painting at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
For those who love historical fiction, check out the following novels based on the exceptional story of Berthe Morisot.
See below for more articles about trail-blazing female impressionists who broke the rules to pursue their art.