Museum  October 24, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Berthe Morisot Reclaims her Place in Art History

Courtesy the Barnes Foundation

Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875-1880

Courtesy the Barnes Foundation

Berthe Morisot, Autoportrait, 1885

After nearly 30 years without a major exhibition in the US, a key Impressionist painter is the subject of a monographic exhibition this fall. Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist is the result of a collaboration between the Barnes Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris. 

Despite being a founding member and leading artist in the Impressionist movement, Morisot is often overshadowed in art history by her now more famous male contemporaries. Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir are household names, while Morisot has remained more obscure. This exhibition seeks to reassert her place in art history as an essential member of this movement with a huge influence on modern art.

The nearly 70 paintings in the exhibition show the evolution of Morisot’s skill and the development of her impressionistic style. Moving from working indoors to en plein air, her brushstrokes become looser, more interpretive, and her paintings look less and less finished, an expressive quality valued by Impressionists, who sought to honestly capture the moment, rather than focusing on perfect realism. Morisot’s paintings also give us an unprecedented look into the real lives of women of her time. Her portraiture often shows domestic life,  intimate family moments, and the importance of women’s fashions, shedding light on areas that have historically not been the subject of paintings.
 

Courtesy the Barnes Foundation

Berthe Morisot, Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1875

The daughter of a prominent Parisien family, Morisot and her sisters received private art lessons as part of their education. Morisot began copying paintings at the Louvre, where she would meet her Impressionist contemporaries, including Édouard Manet. Morisot would go on to marry Édouard’s brother Eugène, also a painter, who would be a great supporter of her artistic career. Though she died in 1895 at only 54, Morisot left behind a large body of work and was celebrated for her talent in her lifetime. The exhibition seeks to restore some of this glory that modern day art history has forgotten. 

Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist in on view at the Barnes through January 14, 2019. Afterwards, the exhibition will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art (February 24–May 26, 2019) and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (June 18–September 22, 2019).
 

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.