It Is Important to Express Your Feelings and Life Experiences

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“It is important to express oneself… provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience” Berthe Morisot (Souter) Berthe Morisot expressed her feelings and life experiences through the art she created. Berthe Morisot is one of the core members of the impressionist movement. While she was important to the movement and participated in many of the groups exhibitions she has fallen through the cracks of history. This can be attributed to the fact that she was a female in a male dominated field as well as her request to keep her paintings among friends and family after her death.

Morisot’s paintings show her formidable talent in painting as well as a glimpse into her inner life through the paintings of her family. Morisot’s care for those close to her can be seen in her the attention to detail and the impression the painting gives the viewer.

Berthe Morisot was born on January 14, 1841 to Tiburce Morisot and Marie-Josephine Thomas.

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Morisot was the second youngest child in her family with two older sister Yves and Edma and a younger brother Tiburce. (Higonnet) She was fortunate to be born into the bourgeoisie social class. The bourgeoisie were middle class, mostly upper middle class. Her father was a civil servant with a love for the arts. His love for the arts would lead his wife to enroll Yves, Edma, and Berthe in drawing and painting lessons to surprise him for his birthday. Berthe’s parents were warned from their instructor Joseph Guichard about the talent of the sister’s.

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Given your daughters’ natural gifts, it will not be petty drawing room talents that my instruction will achieve; they will become a painter. Are you fully aware of what that means? It will be revolutionary – I would almost say catastrophic- in your high bourgeois milieu. Are you sure you will never one day curse the art, once allowed into this household, now so respectably peaceful, that will become the sole master of the fate of two of your children? (Scott 18)

The warning from Guichard did not deter the Morisot’s from continuing to allow their daughters to continue painting. In fact, the daughters were allowed to obtain copyists admission cards to study paintings copies of the old masters at the Louvre. This allowed Berthe to see the techniques and subtle shadings and to meet other artists at the Louvre studying from the masters. It was at the Louvre that Morisot was introduced to Edouard Manet. Berthe and her sister Edma continued to paint together until her sister Edma married and gave up painting to start a family of her own. Painting and drawing were not the only artistic education that Berthe had received. As with the customs of the bourgeoisie class young girls received an education in the arts; with etiquette, reading, and music lessons. (Iskin) Morisot had often loved reading Shakespeare and the was in which she painted later in her life reflects this with her compositions and expressions. Unfortunately, most of her first paintings were destroyed by Morisot herself and so there is not much to see what her style was during her formative years as an artist.

During her career Morisot had received countless reviews from critics with varying views. Though the critics were much gentler on her because she was a female painter compared to her male counterparts. She struggled to get the critics to look at her art as they would her counterparts. The most common negative reviews she received complained about her paintings always seeming unfinished and sketchy. The following quote is from the height of her career in 1877 by critic Georges Riviere.

Her watercolors, pastels, and paintings all have … the light unpretentious style that makes us admire her. Mademoiselle Morisot has an eye of extraordinary sensibility… Madame Berthe Morisot has captured on her canvas the most fugitive notes, with a delicacy, a skill and a technique which earn her a place in the forefront of the Impressionist Group. (Rey 29)

Morisot was well respected during her time among the other impressionist painters who viewed her as an equal. Her choice of subject matter differed from the male impressionists as they had more access to paint outdoors, at cafes, and brothels. Morisot, because of her being a female, could not go to such places without a chaperone. Morisot’s subjects primarily were her family and friends. Before her marriage her favorite model was her sister Edma. In 1874 she would wed the younger brother of Edouard Manet, Eugene Manet. Several years later, in 1878, her first and only child Julie Manet was born. Berthe used her daughter for a model many times, giving her viewers an intimate peek into her personal life through the rendering her daughter. With the birth of her daughter Morisot remarked that she was able to find infinite chances to see magic through life. Perhaps it was Julie’s personality and childlike wonder that seemed to bring Morisot to new heights in her art. Morisot’s paintings often only included females. The only males she painted were her husband and nephew.

In art, the subject matters little, it is how it is treated that is important: in this case, the way in which the ordinary everyday scene is transformed into something that is truer than reality, for all the hidden dimensions are revealed by the artist in the play of colors and brushwork, while imperceptible echoes are made clear in the sparkle and gleam of light. (Rey 58)

Morisot’s art is the definition of this quote. She takes scenes from her everyday life and transforms them into meaningful pieces with the way her brush glides over the canvas. Morisot’s medium she was most well known for would be her watercolors and oil paintings. Morisot also experiments with charcoal, pastel, printmaking, and sculptures. Many of her experimental works have been destroyed and are only known because of the mention of them in her sketchbooks and journals. Morisot really pushed and innovated in painting during her career with unprimed canvasses and using the handle of her brush to scratch her paintings.

Morisot spent her whole life refining her style until her death. In her early paintings it is clear to see that Morisot does not use line and light near as much in her late career. Her early works, like The Artists Sister show that she commands an eye for subtle colors in her palette and a harmony of her composition. The painting approaches a realistic style with the viewer having to search to see the brushstrokes. Morisot uses splashes of black on her sister’s hat, necklace, and umbrella to really contrast the subdued colors present throughout the rest of the painting. Morisot, with her choice of pose, makes the viewer feel as if they are interrupting a precious quiet moment of solitude of the model reading in the field. Even in her early paintings it is clear to see the technical mastery and her gentle touch with the colors she chooses.

The painting Wet Nurse and Baby is arguably one of Morisot’s most controversial paintings. The reason for the controversy stems from the fact that the woman pictured nursing is not the mother of the baby but the wet nurse. It is even more of a controversy considering the woman painted is staring at the viewer while she is breast feeding. (Broude, Garrard) The painting also received criticism for the sketchy brushstrokes and the unfinished feel of the painting. The painting comes during the middle of the impressionist movement. Morisot purposefully uses her brushstrokes to give the painting a hazy or blurry quality. The background and figure seem to melt and coalesce to make it seem like the painting is behind frosted glass. The lack of detail forces the viewer to look at the subject matter and see it as the idea that Morisot is exploring, which is motherhood and working class women.

Morisot’s paintings of her family seem to radiate warmth and happiness from the bright colors that seem to harmonize on the canvas. Her husband was one of the few males the Morisot ever painted in the painting Eugene Manet and his daughter at Bougival you can see him seated leisurely on a bench playing with his daughter. The scene has good composition with the color balanced out between the bright focal point and the darker background. Just looking at the scene it is clear that Morisot has improved to find a balance between the blurriness of her previous works and the delicate palette of her earliest works. Morisot seems to find harmony with short strokes all blending together to give the painting a true impressionist quality. It is easy to see why she is considered one of the of the best representations of the movement.

Morisot’s style has always been evolving and everchanging with how she applies paint. The painting with a similar theme to the last one but with a completely different texture and feel is a continuation of her theme of family. The painting Eugene Manet and his daughter in the garden contrasts from the previous painting with the way that Morisot extends the length of her brushstrokes. The painting has a scratchy appearance in the background due to her use of her brushes handle to roughen up to the paintings surface. The palette that she chooses for the painting is mostly yellows and greens. This choice makes the reds that she uses sparingly really pop which gives the painting a fun and playful atmosphere. The foreground and the background seem to melt together with the repetitive use of strokes in the same direction.

Morisot’s later years included many paintings of her daughter. Her style has reached even greater attention to the interaction of light and her subjects, giving the stark lines surrounding figures which sets them apart from the background. The way she applies her strokes to the canvas gives the whole painting a feeling of a pencil drawing, even though the main focal point has more detailed and refined brushstroke. Her painting Julie Manet and Her Greyhound Laerte showcases all the experimentation and innovation over her career. Morisot’s paintings may give off a spontaneous composition, but she sketched and planned out her paintings in pencil and then in watercolor. This allowed her to achieve the results she looked for in the finished painting.

Morisot could not paint much the last year of her life as she was nursing her daughter Julie back to health before her untimely death in 1895. One of her last paintings Julie Daydreaming is starkly different from many of her paintings. In this painting her color palette is very dark and melancholic, giving the picture a somber almost empty feel. Julie’s gaze at the viewer is very contemplative, almost as if she isn’t seeing the viewer or anything at all. One can also see that the light in the painting gives the figure an outline; This sets it apart from the background, and not letting it melt into it like in some of Morisot’s previous paintings.

“Berthe Morisot’s uniqueness was to “live” her painting, and to paint her life” Paul Valery (Souter) Morisot expressed herself and her feelings through painting what she experienced. Morisot painted her family and friends because they were the most important to her. Morisot was fortunate to be able to have the support of her family to help her not only with providing her with painting lesson but also with their constant support. This allowed her to become the renowned artist she was destined to be. It is easy to see why she was one of the founding members of the impressionist with the way she painted. It is sad that she is not as well known as her male counterparts.

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It Is Important to Express Your Feelings and Life Experiences. (2022, Apr 30). Retrieved from

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