Berthe Morisot Biography

Berthe Morisot




Painter and printmaker Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot was born in Bourges, France in 1841. Interest in painting began at an early age, growing up in a traditional bourgeois household that emphasized artistic pursuits. Her father had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts before working for the government of Cher, France, and her mother, Marie-Josephine, was great-niece to renowned Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Morisot and her sisters received a private art education, restricted to home-taught lessons and chaperoned visits to museums under artist and instructor Joseph Guichard, to copy the styles of Old Masters as well as the most celebrated contemporary artists. Years of employing this learning technique at the Louvre led to her introduction and subsequent friendships with Édouard Manet and Claude Monet, as well as landscape painter Jean-Baptist Camille Corot, who introduced Morisot to painting en plein air -- a conceptual change for an artist who had thus far been confined to mirroring what had already been executed.

At this time, she was also taught metal plate printmaking as well as sculpture (under Aimé Millet) -- though none of her sculpture exists as she often destroyed the works she was unhappy with, and she felt that sculpture was not a medium she could master.

Professional exhibiting began for Morisot at age twenty-three when, in 1864, she participated in the famous Salon de Paris for landscape painting. By 1872 the known collector Durand-Ruel took notice of her work and purchased twenty-two of her works. She exhibited regularly at the Salon, and in 1874 she was invited to participate in the Société Anonyme des Artistes-Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs show, the first Impressionist exhibition. At the time, Impressionism was regarded as anything from excitingly bold to insane, and for a woman in the field, it was twice as difficult to be taken seriously. However, Morisot's dedication to the genre and to her own work earned her critical success, and put her alongside her peers, including Monet. Her work soon gained the favor of Le Figaro critic Albert Wolff.

When Morisot eventually married, to Manet's brother Eugene, she continued to exhibit under full maiden name to retain her recognition, showing, as always, the confidence she held in her abilities as an artist. By the time of her death by pneumonia in 1895, her career was considered on par with her contemporaries, though her standing in art history has been greatly dismissed until recently.