MORISOT Berthe
( 1841-1895) French painter; born Bourges, where her father was a high government official. Berthe Morisot was brought up in cultivated but traditional middle-class surroundings. Nothing in those surroundings would have led one to predict that from the very outset she would be drawn towards the best artists of her time. Her temperament asserted itself at once in the reticence with which she met the mediocre teaching of her first instructor, Chocarne, in the profit she was able to draw from that of the second, Guichard; and further in the desire she expressed to work with Corot. It was under his guidance that she painted from 1862 to 1868. She assimilated his lessons perfectly, and to them she owed a great deal. Their influence is apparent until about 1874: The Harbour of Lorient ( 1869), On the Balcony ( 1872), The Butterfly Chase, At Maurecourt ( 1874). But attracted by the an of Manet, she made his acquaintance in 1868, and his influence, in addition to that of Corot, was especially apparent in the years 1875- 1976: Woman at The Mirror, Le Déjeuneuner sur l'Herbe. However, having joined the Impressionist group at its beginning, she drew Manet toward light colours and outdoor painting. It was between 1877 and 1879 that she forged her own style, which began to crystallize during this period ( Young Woman Powdering Her Face, 1877; Behind the Blind, 1878; Summer Day, 1879). She did not resort to the systematic divided stroke but to large strokes very freely applied in all directions, which gave her canvases an aspect characteristic of herself alone. The familiar interior or open-air scenes she painted are bathed in radiant and iridescent light, in which silvery tones mingle in harmonies of a rarely achieved delicacy and sensitivity. Extremely characteristic of her genius, these paintings are feasts of light, of aerial mobility and lightness, of a spontaneous freshness, constantly renewed from 1879 to 1889 ( Eugène Manet and his Daughter at Bougival, 1881; The Verranda, 1882; The Garden, 1883; On the Lake, 1884; Reading, 1888). This very free, personal manner seemed particularly to suit her temperament, which found in it a medium made to order. However, towards 1889 she became disturbed by the danger inherent in the Impressionist vision, which was too exclusively attached to the atmospheric aspect of the world and she sought greater unity and respect for form. She assumed a long and flexible stroke that followed the form without encircling it, but shaped its mass and luminosity: The Mandolin ( 1889), Young Girl Asleep ( 1892), Young Girl with a Fan ( 1893), The Two Sisters ( 1894). This is her final manner, for she died early in 1895. Without separating it from the rest, the important place that water-colour occupied in her work should be stressed, as this medium corresponded particularly well to her nature as a painter and is one of which she made masterful use. A few simple, limpid spots, applied with extreme audacity, were all she needed to express herself completely. Specifically a painter, Berthe Morisot was responsive, above all, to the play of light upon the world which surrounded her; she drew her emotions from it, and in its pictorial interpretation she expressed her nature as a woman and an artist. She allowed no ideology or spirit of system to impair the spontaneity of her art, at whose service she put only purely plastic means. As a woman, she excluded brutality, preferring delicacy and subtlety, and she found her most favourable climate in the intimate atmosphere of family scenes animated by the simple gestures of life, from which she could extract poetry.
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