The much over-looked Berthe Morisot
In Paris, there’s a partially undeclared war between the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée Marmottan. And it’s all Monet’s fault.
Orsay has all the spotlights on it, and it’s right there in the middle of town, across the river from the Louvre. The much smaller Marmottan, on the other hand, is barely inside Paris, on its very western edge, and not right at a métro stop even. So to make the point that they have Monets too, they’ve changed their name to Musée Marmottan Monet.
But as amazing as all that is, that wasn’t why I took three different métro lines to come here. The Marmottan is hosting a show of the works of Berthe Morisot, and thanks to her descendants’ generosity, this museum is now the proud owner of 81 of her pieces: oils, watercolors, pastels, drawings and even her sketchbooks. It’s the first retrospective show of her genius since well before my birth.
|Morisot, by Edma|
But long before her marriage, Morisot had already been in the thick of things Impressionist. By the age of 20, she was being taught by Camille Corot, especially in plein air (outdoor) painting. That gave her a good preparation in the transposition of light, which was the principle behind Impressionism. Her paintings were first accepted by the Salon de Paris when she was only 23 and from then on her name was on the lips of all her contemporaries. She was the only woman artist at the first Impressionist show in 1874, her works hanging alongside those of Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas and Sisley. Pretty good company, for a girl!
|Morisot, by Manet|
She was a woman living astride two worlds: the bourgeoisie into which she was born and the artist’s world in which she thrived. In her time, women led lives like Edma’s. If they dabbled in art, it was just that: dabbling. The only other woman I can think of who achieved as much was the American, Mary Cassatt.
Berthe Morisot died of pneumonia which she caught from her daughter while nursing her back to health. She was only 54.
|Femme à l'éventail|
|Jeune fille arrossant un arbuste|
The exhibit starts with the traditional exercise for the budding artist: copies of works by the masters. It includes a few works by Edma, including her portrait of Berthe. It moves on to what she is most known for: paintings of her family, including her headstrong maid Pasie. There are a few nudes, one the same as another of a shepherdess, but this one sans clothes, and then again what may be the same shepherdess wearing only a head scarf and sitting on a riverbank, which almost uses Renoir flesh colors.
The exhibit included just one piece of sculpture: a bust of Julie - who else? - for which she is said to have gotten tips from Rodin himself, and there is indeed a Rodin cum Camille Claudel air about it.
|Jeune fille à la poupée|
I must admit that none of the photos of Morisot’s works are mine. That was not allowed, even though I did steal the one against the garden background. So I’ve borrowed the others off the Web.
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)extended through Sunday, July 29, 2012
Musée Marmottan Monet
2, rue Louis Boilly
Métro: La Muette
Open Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 6
Thursdays open until 8 pm