Saturday, February 27, 2010

Berthe Morisot, the chaperoned young painter

Not for the well-bred Berthe Morisot was the vigorous, bohemian life of the Café Guerbois where painters such as Monet, Manet, Renoir and Cézanne (all male, please note) gathered around a table to argue art and technique. Berthe would not have been allowed anywhere near those joyful meetings; she was a woman and of good family.

The daughter of a rising civil servant, Berthe lived in two worlds: her painting with which she was never satisfied and the
suitable dinners and salons where her socially ambitious mother made certain that her three beautiful unmarried daughters were introduced to eligible men. So no cafe life for Berthe, no learning how to draw a figure in a drafty, dusty art class. Either her mother accompanied her and her gifted sister Edma to copy paintings at the Louvre or for art lessons with the genial, elderly Corot, or she and her sister went modestly together, chaperoning each other. A young woman could not go anywhere alone; her reputation might be compromised. It was not done.

But the world of the men who would be known as the Impressionists opened to her anyway. Manet's mother, Madame Manet, was socially desirable. She held a weekly Salon and it was likely there that the beautiful Berthe encountered the red-haired dandy Manet and became his colleague and model. Who knows what else she felt? Certainly she was a complex young woman.

1 comment:

  1. There is a well known cross influence between Edouard and Berthe in the way of painting. Besides, she often has been her model and the fierceful and magnificent canevas where she appears make one understand that there was a special link between the painter and his model.
    Edouard was a dandy man, forwarding bunch of violettes at both Eva Gonzales and Berthe Morisot. The late admired very much Edouard and I personnaly think that she developped loving feelings towards him but how one can explain she married his brother, Eugène ? Renouncement, I guess.