Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism, is a sensational display of dynamic brushwork, impasto surfaces, pastel colours, soft, sun-clad interiors, pensive expressions and intimate depictions of Morisot’s loved ones. Unconventional in their more personal perspective in comparison to Morisot’s male colleagues, Morisot’s scenes are more often than not domestic and indoors (since it was more difficult for Morisot to paint outdoors as a woman), depicting family such as her daughter, Julie, her niece, her husband and her sister.
Dulwich Picture Gallery’s curatorial stance for this exhibition, which has been based on new research, is focused on the way in which Morisot was influenced by, responded to and translated eighteenth-century French art, particularly that by Rococo artists Fragonard and Boucher, as well as British art by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Romney. The work of these artists have crept their way into 13 out of 43 of the exhibits, focussing on Morisot’s predecessors, particularly Fragonard reinforcing comparison.
The best rooms are the first and last, which display works almost entirely by Morisot, whilst in the middle of the exhibition the narrative veers towards the work of other artists from the previous century. Whilst Morisot was clearly responding to the Rococo era and eighteenth-century painting, re-working Rococo colours and motifs such as the reclining woman, her work is starkly different and an entirely new language altogether.
The world created by Morisot’s paintings was a reflection of her position as an upper middle-class woman with access to an informal art education (particularly from the landscape painter, Camille Corot) and the economic freedom to pay for childcare. As a result, Morisot flourished as a professional artist, exhibiting at the salons in Paris from 1860s onwards. However, Morisot did have to be strategic in the way in which she painted, working at dawn or in spaces where she would be less visible to the public, such as out on a boat away from the public gaze.
Morisot’s position as a woman within a male-dominated art world meant that her works often represent the peripheries of metropolitan Parisian life, capturing women indoors in their homes more often than outdoors, or alone with their thoughts in private spaces. Indeed, Morisot’s ability to communicate a mood of pensive introspection is profound, and beyond being sentimental, her work is breathtakingly alive with emotion and a quality of momentary intimacy.
Image: Berthe Morisot, Woman at her toilette,1875-80. Image courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago, Stickney Fund.
Review by Lucy Evans
Lucy’s passion for the arts began with drawing and painting at a young age and developed later on into a love of landscape painting and a degree in Art History, with a focus on Modernism and gender. Lucy has grown to love literature and acting in particular, and her experiences acting at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival have been formative, convincing her that performance can be an essential tool for communication and connection, as well as of course being a valuable source of entertainment.
Lucy’s latest review here Review: Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined-Sadler’s Wells Until 15 April (abundantart.net)
Tickets and information: Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism | Dulwich Picture Gallery
About Berthe Morisot
Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot (1841-1895) was a French painter and a founding member of Impressionism. In 1864, she exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris. Her work was selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons until, in 1874, she joined the “rejected” Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. Morisot went on to participate prominently in almost all of the following eight Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886; she missed one in 1878 when she gave birth to her daughter Julie who she had with her husband Eugène Manet, the brother of her friend and colleague Édouard Manet. In 1894, she was described by influential French art critic Gustave Geffroy as one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.
Musée Marmottan Monet
The Musée Marmottan Monet is housed in a magnificent townhouse once owned by writer and art collector Paul Marmottan. In addition to its collection of pre-modern paintings, sculptures and illuminations, it boasts the world’s leading collections of works by Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot. This outstanding Impressionist treasure is further enriched by works from Delacroix, Boudin, Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, Sisley, Pissarro, Gauguin and Rodin, with Chagall representing the modernist period. http://www.marmottan.fr