|Cottage Interior, 1886|
Even before visiting the current show at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, friends mentioned that they had been discouraged from seeing the exhibition. They had been told that Morisot was a second-rate Impressionist and not worth their time. I took these remarks as examples of the resistance experienced by women painters of the era, a prejudice that has endured through the years.
|In the Country (After Lunch), 1881|
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), is perhaps best known by the company she kept. Married to Eugène Manet, brother of her colleague and friend Edouard Manet, she exhibited her work with other Impressionists, including Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley. Since her premature death, her work has often been shown together with theirs, or with that of her female contemporaries, including Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). This show is, then, a most welcome opportunity to consider Morisot's work on its own merits, and to understand some of the difficulties she experienced in the pursuit of her career.
|Mr. Manet and his Daughter, 1883|
From the MNBAQ website:
"The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Québec City, Canada), the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia, PA), the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, TX), and the Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France) announced the internationally touring exhibition dedicated to one of the revolutionary artists of the French Impressionist movement, Berthe Morisot (1841–1895). Co-organized by the four institutions, Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist will focus on the artist’s figure paintings and portraits through approximately 50 to 60 paintings from both public institutions and private collections. This tour will be the first dedicated presentation of Morisot’s work to be held in the United States since 1987, the very first solo exhibition of her work to be mounted in Canada, and the first time since 1941 that a French national museum will devote a monographic show to this important painter."
|Eugène Manet and his Daughter in the Garden at Bougival, 1881|
In Morisot's time, women were barred from attending formal art schools; she was tutored privately. At the age of 23, two of her paintings were accepted into the "Salon de Paris". She continued to show her work regularly at the Salon until 1873, and then with the Impressionists, beginning with their first exhibition in 1874. In 1872 she sold 22 of her paintings to the private dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. Nevertheless, she destroyed much of her early work, dissatisfied with it. Many of her paintings remained in the hands of her family until recently, and this also may have contributed to a delayed appreciation of her body of work.
|Young Girl in Green Coat, 1893|
In Morisot's time, it was thought unseemly for women to frequent public places like bars, cafés, and theatres alone. While her contemporaries often found their subjects at the horse races, or in brothels, she found her inspiration in more domestic settings, concentrating on family members or paid models, and favouring interior scenes.
|Portrait of Mlle J.M. (Julie Dreaming), 1894|
I did find some of Morisot's compositions problematic. Often I felt the relationship of her subject to the background was awkward. A few of the works presented as paintings were "scribbly", and better seen as sketches. But what some refer to as "unfinished" I could see as having a spontaneous quality, that pushed the impressionistic approach to its natural limits. I preferred the paintings that had a range of value, of dark and light, as I found some of her too-pastel palettes a bit sugary for my taste.
|Jeune Fille en Blanc, 1891|
The exhibition is a very thorough exploration of Morisot's work and life, as seen both with contemporary eyes and through the lens of her own times. It continues until September 23, 2018.