Berthe M P Morisot – The female touch of Impressionism

France * 1841-1895
Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot as born on 14 January 1841 in Bourges near Cher, France. Her father, Edmé Tiburce Morisot was the prefect of the Deparment of Cher while her mother, Marie Joséphine Cornélie Thomas was the great niece of Rococo painter Jean Honoré Fragonard and hence her family can be easily described as affluent.

In 1857 she was introduced to the Louvre museum and one year later, she copied paintings from the museum’s vast collection. Her work at the Louvre enabled her to befriend other artists such as Camille Corot who not only gained fame as a landscape painter of the Barbizon School but was also gifted in figure painting. Under Corot’s influence, Morisot took up painting en plein air. She also studied under Achille Oudinot and even ventured into sculpture with Aimé Millet, although none of her sculpture is known to survive.

Berthe Morisot-The Cradle-1872

The Cradle – Berthe Morisot (1872)

In 1864 she held her first exhibition in the prestigious Salon de Paris, entering two landscape paintings, and took part in the six subsequent exhibitions. Her mature career began in 1872 when she sold 22 of her paintings to art dealer Durand-Ruel. Married to Eugène Manet (brother of Edouard Manet) in 1877, who she had befriended in 1868, she became a member of the Impressionists and one of the leading female painters in the movement, along Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.

In 1874 she joined the “Rejected”, impressionists which held their own exhibitions such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas and Alfred Sisley. However, Berthe Morisot continued to gain recognition. She stayed in London and the Isle of Wight in 1875 where she studied JMW Turner and painted seascapes. Durand-Ruel included three of her works in the 1883 London exhibition and three years later, she exhibited in America. Her works were also on show in the Salon XX in Brussels, Paris. However, her first solo exhibition was not until 1892, when she displayed 43 works in Paris.


The artist’s daughter and her nanny – Berthe Morisot (1884)

In terms of her works, these are often small-scale. She not only worked in oil, but also water colours, pastel and various drawing media.  From 1880 her brushwork became looser and longer as she started painting on unprimed canvases. Following the death of Manet in 1883, her work moved to a style more comparable with Renoir. Works include “The artist’s daughter and her nanny” (1884) and “In the dining room” (1886).

Morisot died on 2 March 1895 in Paris after contracting pneumonia.