Past: March 8 → July 1, 2012
The Musée Marmottan presents the first major retrospective of the work of Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) to be held in Paris for almost half a century. One hundred and fifty paintings, pastels, watercolours and drawings in red chalk and charcoal, from museums and private collections all over the world, retrace the career of the Impressionist movement’s best-known woman painter. Works selected for the exhibition cover the whole of Berthe Morisot’s artistic career, from her earliest works c. 1860, to her untimely death at the age of 54, in 1895.
The exhibition opens with an exceptional group of self-portraits, and portraits of Morisot by Edouard Manet (the celebrated painter of Olympia was her brother-in-law). As a founder member of the Impressionist group, and a leading figure in Paris’s artistic and literary circles, Berthe Morisot was also a close friend and associate of Degas, Renoir, Monet, and the poet Stéphane Mallarmé.
Berthe Morisot’s artistic training, in company with her sister Edma, is captured in the latter’s Portrait of Berthe Morisot, the sisters’ copies of Veronese painted in the Louvre under the direction of their art master Joseph Guichard, and the View of Gardens of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli by Jean-Baptiste Corot (with whom Berthe later studied). Edma was Berthe’s painting companion until 1869, and her favourite model from 1869 to 1873. Edma abandoned painting after her marriage, and Berthe continued alone, pursuing her career as a leading member of the Impressionist group.
At the first Impressionist exhibition, held at the gallery of Paris photographer Nadar in 1874, Berthe Morisot’s work stood out for its feminine subject-matter and delicate style, and her skill in transcribing the limpid atmosphere and light touch of watercolour in her oil paintings, giving her work a particular freshness.
From 1873-4 onwards, cousins, friends and professional models posed for portraits show- ing women dressed, or dressing, for the ball — including Morisot’s last studies in black — or intimate scenes of everyday life revealing the evolution of the artist’s palette towards more pastel hues, prompting comparisons with Watteau, Bonington and Fragonard.
Her daughter Julie, born in 1878, naturally became Berthe Morisot’s favourite model, and the subject of fifteen paintings executed between 1882 and 1888, forming the centrepiece of the exhibition. Beyond Morisot’s fascination for the theme of childhood, the paintings testify to the brilliance of her mature style: colours, handling and painterly effects embody ‘Impressionism par excellence’.
The final part of the exhibition is divided into two sections, one devoted to landscape — a subject treated by Berthe Morisot throughout her life, and the genre of choice for her late experiments in the dissolution of form, c.1894-95 — the other, to Berthe’s three ver- sions of the Cerisier (‘Cherry Tree’) and the Petite Bergère allongée (‘Young shepherdess reclining’) and the last portraits of Julie, works underscoring Berthe Morisot’s late but key interest in large-scale compositions and — from 1885 onwards — in drawing. In this closing section, landscapes bordering on abstraction face contemporary portraits captured in clean, delicate outlines, each echoing the other and illustrating the rich diversity of artistic experimentation (drawing, and the dissolution of form) with which Morisot engaged in her last years.
The exhibition layout takes a fresh look at the work of Berthe Morisot. More than a painter of women and children, a self-conscious bridge between the painting of the 18th and 19th centuries, the exhibition invites us to see in her one of the Impressionist movement’s most innovative, least dogmatic artists — the only member of the group to identify and explore the link between Renoir’s drawings and the dissolution of form achieved later by Monet.
Exhibition catalogue published by Éditions Hazan, Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) — 264 pages, 200 Illustrations — Price : 35 € — Available 1 March 2012.
2, rue Louis-Boilly
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Every day except Monday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Late night on Thursday until 8 PM
Full rate €10.00 — Concessions €5.00
Children under 7 : free admission