Berthe Morisot
Biography of Female French Impressionist.

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The Cradle (1872-3) by Berthe Morisot
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Berthe Morisot (1841-95)


Early Life and Training
At the French Salon
Meets Manet
Impressionist Art
Selected Paintings

NOTE: For analysis of works by Impressionist painters like Berthe Morisot,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

Portrait of Berthe Morisot (1872)
By Edouard Manet.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

For the most important pictures, see:
Best Impressionist Paintings.


A French painter from a well-to-do family, Morisot was an important if less well-known member of the French Impressionism movement. An exhibitor at all but one of the Impressionist exhibitions, she was a pivotal figure of the group, frequently acting as a go-between among the painters, poets and writers of the circle. Like her fellow woman Impressionist, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), a leading figure of American Impressionism, Morisot was seriously underrated as an artist - she is still better known for being the sister-in-law of Edouard Manet - but is now considered to be in the first rank of Impressionist painters, and one of the best women artists in modern art.

Focusing on Impressionist landscape painting and domestic scenes, important works of French painting by Morisot include: The Cradle (1872, Musee d'Orsay, Paris) and View of Paris From the Heights of the Trocadero (1872, Santa Barbara Museum of Art).

Paintings by Berthe Morisot
are widely available online
in the form of poster art.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.

For a list of the best examples of
Fine Art Painting, by the
world's top artists, see below:
Greatest Modern Paintings
Oils, watercolours, mixed
media from 1850-present.

For a list of painters like
Berthe Morisot, see:
Modern Artists.

Early Life and Training

Morisot was born in Bourges, Cher, into a highly cultured upper-middle class family with artistic connections. Her grandfather was Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) who, along with Francois Boucher and Antoine Watteau, was one of the famous French artists of the Rococo style. Her sister, Edma Morisot, also became a full-time painter. In the early 1860s, both Morisot sisters were informal pupils of the Romantic landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), who as well as persuading them to take up plein-air painting also introduced them to other artists within his circle. As a result, in 1868, Morisot met Edouard Manet (1832-83), who became her principal artistic mentor. After he died, when Morisot was 42, she also learned from Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). (See also: Impressionism: Origins, Influences.)

Meantime, Berthe and Edma worked closely together until such time as Edma married and started a family, after which her painting activity declined - a situation much regretted by her sister.

At The Paris Salon

In 1864, Morisot exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon, the prestigious annual art show of the French Academy of Fine Arts in Paris: two of her landscape paintings were selected. Thereafter, she showed at six further Salons - attracting favourable reviews from the critics - until 1874, when she joined the Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which also included works by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Alfred Sisley (1839-99), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Paul Cezanne (1848-1903). See: Impressionist Exhibitions, Paris.

Meets Manet

In 1868, Morisot met and befriended Edouard Manet with whom she enjoyed an especially warm relationship. He became a key formative influence on her art, and painted several portraits of her during the course of their friendship, including the striking study of her in a black veil, after her father's death. In turn, she influenced him to take up outdoor painting and adopt the rainbow colour palette of the Impressionists. In addition, she was instrumental in drawing him into the Impressionist group. (See: Impressionism: Early History.) In 1874, she married his brother, Eugene, with whom she had a daughter, Julie. Many of Morisot's works were autobiographical in subject, and her daughter Julie was to feature in several of her paintings.

Impressionist Art

Morisot's art blossomed with the growth of Impressionism during the later 1870s and early 1880s. As a strong opponent of traditional Academic art, as taught in the official academies of Europe, she was an active champion of Impressionist doctrine, putting her daily experiences onto canvas. Her pictures reflect her upbringing and class: eschewing the nude, as well as urban and streetscapes scenes, she focused on landscape painting (garden settings, boating scenes) and portrait art (using family and friends as models). Above all, she portrayed the comfort and intimacy of family life - as in her masterpiece The Cradle (1872). (Note: to understand more about Morisot's style of art, see: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

The fact that she excelled in watercolour painting, pastels, and drypoint, as well as oil painting, gives some indication of her exceptional painterly talent. (See also: Impressionist Painting Developments.)

Selected Paintings

Works by Berthe Morisot hang in several of the world's best art museums, notably the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. In addition, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art owns her outstanding painting View of Paris From the Heights of the Trocadero (1872), in which she combines her two main themes - landscape painting and women with children.

- The Harbour at Lorient (1869) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
- The Mother and Sister of the Artist (1869-70) National Gallery Washington.
- On the Balcony (1872) Metropolitan Museum of Art New York.
- The Cradle (1872) Musee d'Orsay, Paris.
- View of Paris From the Heights of the Trocadero (1872) Santa Barbara.
- Reading (1873) Cleveland Museum of Art.
- Chasing Butterflies (1874) Musee d'Orsay, Paris.
- At the Ball (1875) Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris.
- Lady at her Toilette (1875) The Art Institute of Chicago.
- Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight (1875) Private Collection.
- The Dining Room (1875) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
- Summer Day (1879) National Gallery, London.
- Winter (Woman with a Muff) (1880) Dallas Museum of Arts.
- Child among Staked Roses (1881) Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.
- Rose Tremiere (1884) Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris.
- The Bath (Girl Arranging Her Hair) (1885-86) Clark Art Institute.
- Julie Manet et son Levrier Laerte (1893) Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris.

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