On this day: Painter Berthé Morisot died, le 2 Mars 1895
Berthé Morisot, une peintre impressioniste française, died on le 2 mars 1895. Born on le 14 janvier 1841 in Bourges, Cher, France into a successful bourgeois family who encouraged her and her sister Edma Morisot in their exploration of art. She was the granddaughter of the influential Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Berthé Morisot demonstrated the possibilities for women artists in avant-garde art movements at the end of the XIX ème siecle. Once Morisot settled on pursuing art, her family did not impede her career.
After copying masterpieces from le musée du Louvre in the late 1850s under Joseph Guichard, Berthé and Edma began painting outdoor scenes while studying with the well known landscape painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. Berthé worked with Corot, who became a family friend, from 1862 to 1868. She first exhibited her paintings at the prestigious state-run art show, le Salon, in 1864, and her work was shown there regularly for the next decade. Corot was an important landscape painter of the Barbizon school and introduced her to other artists and teachers. She took up plein air techniques and painted small pieces outdoors either as finished works or as studies for larger works completed in the studio.
Morisot's first acceptance in the Salon de Paris came in 1864 with two landscape paintings, and she continued to show regularly in the Salon until 1874, the year of the first impressionist exhibition. She was acquainted with Édouard Manet from 1868. At the age of thirty-three in 1874 she married Eugène Manet, Édouard's younger brother. She convinced Manet to attempt plein air painting, and drew him into the circle of acquaintance of the painters who became known as les impressionistes. Manet never really considered himself to be un impressioniste nor did he ever agree to show with the group, though he is often considered to be the leader of the group.
Morisot, along with Camille Pissarro, was one of only two artists whose work exhibited in all of the original impressioniste shows. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was another painter well-known by Morisot.
Like Mary Cassatt, during her lifetime, Berthé Morisot was relegated to the category of "feminine" artists because of their usual subject matter - women, children, and domestic scenes. However, as a doctrinaire impressioniste, Morisot painted what she saw in her immediate, everyday life. As a woman securely in the haute bourgeoisie she saw domestic interiors, holiday spots, other women, and children. Morisot's subject matter shows the equivalent of that of her impressionist colleagues. Edgar Degas, the dandy male bourgeois, painted rehearsals of the ballet, horse races, and nude women in appartements (rather than in studios). Claude Monet painted his garden, his children, and his neighbor's haystacks. Female impressionistes painted their social milieu in a way consistent with the impressioniste approach to subject matter.
In 1878, Berthé Morisot, she gave birth to her daughtre, Julie. Eugéne Manet died in 1892. Morisot's friends rallied around her and Julie and allowed Morisot to continue painting. She had her first solo exhibition in 1892 at the Boussod and Valadon gallery, where she sold a number of works, and she earned further recognition in 1894, when the French government purchased her oil painting "Young Woman in a Ball Gown." Morisot contracted pneumonia in the winter of 1894-1895 and died from it on le 2 mars 1895 in Paris. She was interred in le Cimetière de Passy.
After her death, Renoir and Degas organized a retrospective of her work, which garnered serious critical acclaim and ensured her place in art history as one of the founding members of the revolutionary Impressionist movement. Morisot and Cassatt are considered to be the most important women painters of le XIX ème siecle. Today, Morisot's paintings can sell for more than $4 million.