Berthe Morisot, an artist ahead of her time

Dear Parisian Fields subscribers,

If you enjoy our postings about art, we hope you will enjoy an article on the Impressionist artist Berthe Morisot that Philippa wrote for the website Girls’ Guide to Paris.

The article begins: “It is said of Ginger Rogers that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in high heels. Similarly, Berthe Morisot did everything her fellow French Impressionist painters did, but in a corset and with a chaperone beside her.”

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Hope you enjoy it. We’ll have a new posting on our own blog this weekend.

Norman and Philippa

About Parisian Fields

Parisian Fields is the blog of two Toronto writers who love Paris. When we can't be there, we can write about it. We're interested in everything from its history and architecture to its graffiti and street furniture. We welcome comments, suggestions, corrections, and musings from all readers.
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6 Responses to Berthe Morisot, an artist ahead of her time

  1. Hazel says:

    Hi – I didn’t really want to log in to the other site. Nice article, Philippa. I think Berthe was in love with her brother-in-law. He was a huge influence on her life. I have a copy of Julie’s diaries and Berthe’s letters but I can’t help but feel the juicy ones have been left out!

    • Or was it that he was in love with her, and she was really married to her art? I wonder. He painted her, but she never painted him (and she could have, since he was a family member). Many interpretations are possible. I must read her letters one day.

  2. Richard Ewen says:

    Very interesting that you wrote this review and it was posted today on your site because just last evening I was re-reading a catalogue from the Metropolitan Museum of New York, 1983, on a Manet show that was there and also at the Grand Palais in Paris. This event was 100 years after his death. The cover is Berthe in a white dress with a fan in her hand leaning on the green railing of a balcony (this is in fact a detail from the painting called The Balcony). Manet was a true precursor to the Impressionists and his paintings of Berthe certainly show her beauty. When you view his paintings you can’t believe how he achieved such rich thick paint and blurry brush strokes and got them to coalesce into such a magnificent visual image.

    • The same could be said of many of Morisot’s paintings. The conventional view, of course, is that he influenced her, but is it possible that she in her turn had an effect on him? The exhibition revealed that she was accomplished in a way that did not necessarily depend on outside influences, at least partly because she had to deal with constraints that did not apply to her male colleagues. That was my impression, anyway, after looking at the remarkable retrospective of her work. We are always so quick to attribute talent to “influences,” particularly when we talk of women artists. But the respect she received in her lifetime, and from her contemporaries immediately after her death, suggests that she was not just a follower of a style set by others, but one of the leaders. Like Charlotte Perriand, she lived in the shadow of a “great man” and her own original achievements may be overshadowed by theirs.

  3. secondbysecondworldwar says:

    To pick up on the idea of Berthe Morisot being in love with the great Edouard Manet: Elizabeth Robards recently wrote a novel with this very premise, ‘With Violets’. Only fiction, of course, but maybe—as Berthe would say—‘dreams are more real than reality’!

  4. arlene ferrick says:

    I just finished reading The Greater Journey so this post was most interesting to me. Also, during my one and only visit to Paris I purchased a pair of reproduction earrings at the Musee Delacroix and they are from one of Berthe’s paintings. I wish I knew which painting. I also wish I could see that exhibit. We hope to return to our favorite city in 2013.

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