In 1894, famed art critic Gustave Geffroy described Berthe Morisot, Marie Bracquemond, and Mary Cassatt as “les trois grandes dames” (the three great ladies) of the Impressionist movement.
Born into a wealthy bourgeois family from Bourges, France, Berthe Morisot learnt how to paint at an early age, having private lessons along with her sisters.
As art students, Berthe and her sister Edma would spend hours in the Louvre copying the great works.
While marriage and family life ended Edma’s art career, Berthe continued to paint, and in 1864 at age 23, she exhibited at the prestigious Salon de Paris—the official, annual exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris.
Then in 1874, she stopped exhibiting with the academy and joined the Impressionists, which included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley.
Regarded as a “virtuoso colorist”, Berthe created a sense of space and depth with color, painting what she saw and experienced in everyday life. But there is a message in her work—one that tells a story of the class and gender restrictions of the 19th century.
Focusing on family life, her portraits often feature her own daughter, Julie, from her marriage to Édouard Manet’s brother, Eugène.
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