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5 Fast Facts: Berthe Morisot

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
Rendered in loose, impressionistic brushstrokes in muted pastel tones, the still life painting depicts a brass birdcage with two small birds cuddled next to each other on a perch. The cage sits adjacent to and partially obscures a bowl of lush red, yellow, and white flowers.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), whose work is currently on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

Rendered in loose, impressionistic brushstrokes in muted pastel tones, the still life painting depicts a brass birdcage with two small birds cuddled next to each other on a perch. The cage sits adjacent to and partially obscures a bowl of lush red, yellow, and white flowers.
Berthe Morisot, The Cage, 1885; Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 15 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

1. Early Revolutionary

Morisot began taking art classes at a young age. Recognizing her talent, her instructor told her mother that Morisot had the gifts to be a professional painter—which would be “revolutionary” for the time.

2. One of a Kind

Morisot was the only woman to show at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Her work hung beside pieces by artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet.

Impressionist painting of a choirboy. The young, light-skinned boy is has very short brown hair and wears a red, high-collared, long, under layer with a white long-sleeved layer over it. His arms are crossed and the background is a plain canvas.
Berthe Morisot, Enfant de choeur, 1894; Oil on canvas, 36 x 21 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay

3. Girl Power

Though surrounded by a circle of male painters, Morisot rarely painted men. Her works focus on women and children in domestic scenes that depict everyday French life.

4. A Critical Success

Critics tended to review Morisot’s works more positively than her Impressionist peers. One critic wrote, “The truth is there is only one Impressionist in the group and it is Berthe Morisot. She has already been acclaimed and should continue to be so.”

5. Prime Time

Morisot began experimenting with unprimed canvas in the 1880s, letting areas of the canvas show through and incorporating the blank spaces into her compositions.

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