Musée No:397.037

Musée No:397.037

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The Artist's Sister at a Window

Artist: Berthe Morisot

Date:  1869

Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) was a French painter and a member of the Impressionists. Born into a wealthy family, apparently she and her sister started taking lessons so that they could each make a drawing for their father for his birthday. They were taught privately by Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne, a painter trained in the neoclassical tradition. In 1857 Guichard, who ran a school for girls, introduced Berthe and Edma to the Louvre gallery where they learned by copying paintings. At the time girls were not only forbidden to work at the museum unchaperoned, but they were also totally barred from formal training.  Through Guichard they met Corot, landscape painter of the Barbizon school, in 1861, under whose encouragement they began to paint out of doors near Pontoise. It was at the Louvre, she met Fantin-Latour who introduced her to Manet and others including Monet.  In 1864, and the following six years, she exhibited in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris. 

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’s hard to imagine a time when the Impressionists weren’t accepted and loved, but back in the 1874 they were avant-garde and disliked. I love this now outrageous description from Le Figaro critic, Albert Wolff, who noted that the Impressionists consisted of "five or six lunatics of which one is a woman...[whose] feminine grace is maintained amid the outpourings of a delirious mind."  As her skill and style improved, opinions towards her changed and in the 1880 exhibition, many reviews judged her to be among the best, including the fore mentioned Albert Wolff. Soon after she was referred to as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.

Berthe was married to Eugène Manet, the brother of her friend and colleague Édouard Manet.  In November 1878, their only child, Julie, was born. Julie posed frequently for her mother and other artistic friends including Renoir and her uncle Édouard. Berthe's home became a meeting place for painters and writers alike, including Renoir, Degas, Mary Cassatt and Stéphane Mallarmé. Morisot made pastels and watercolours as well as oil paintings, and during the final years of her life she experimented with lithography and drypoint etching.


The sitter : Berthe had two sisters - Yves and Edma Morisot. According to reports she was closest to Edma and although we can't be sure this may well be Edma. The two sisters were known to travel together, exhibit together, and often painted side by side. The two women, best friends and companions for 12 years, until Edma's marriage when she and her husband moved to Brittany.

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