During impressionism’s peak in the mid- to late-19th century, talented artist Berthe Morisot painted right alongside legendary artists like Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas to help found the movement. Morisot, a woman, has long been under-recognized for her contributions, though, and has rarely received the kind of celebration her male colleagues have enjoyed throughout history.
Now this underappreciated French artist takes the spotlight in Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist, an exhibition highlighting art for and about women that’s open at the Barnes Foundation through January 14, 2019.
BERTHE MORISOT FAST FACTS
- The Barnes Foundation’s Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist exhibit is open now through January 14, 2019.
- The exhibit highlights the career of the French impressionist painter who was celebrated alongside Renoir, Monet and Degas.
- Many of the highlighted works feature women at work and in between spaces.
- A majority of the exhibit’s 68 paintings are on loan from private collectors.
The exhibit — the first dedicated presentation of Morisot’s work in the U.S. in more than 30 years — includes 68 works, assembled largely from private collections, that represent Morisot’s significant contribution to the impressionist movement, including paintings that depict women either at work or between spaces.
Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist examines the painter’s life and career in seven thematic galleries: Becoming An Artist, Painting Outdoors, Fashion and the Modern Woman, Finished/Unfinished, Women at Work, Threshold Spaces and A Studio of One’s Own.
Organized roughly chronologically, the exhibition opens with paintings Morisot created between the late 1860s and 1874, including 1873’s Reading (The Green Umbrella), one of her best-known works.
As the exhibition progresses, visitors can see Morisot’s personal life evolve as her work, considered experimental and innovative at the time, takes on new subjects.
Unlike many artists whose work depicted poverty, Morisot’s paintings — including many on display in the Fashion and the Modern Woman gallery — show chic, urban Parisian women lounging in elegant rooms and getting dressed for fanciful events.
This theme surfaces again in Women at Work, where the paintings show cooks, maids and servants. Plus, portraits of her daughter often included nannies and other caretakers. All of these are callbacks to Morisot’s own upper-middle-class upbringing.
Technique and Innovation
As the subject of Morisot’s paintings change throughout her career, so, too, does her approach to the canvas. In the Finished/Unfinished gallery, visitors can witness the loose, rapid brushstrokes Morisot used during the 1880s. Landscapes play a dominant role in many of these works, including 1884’s The Garden at Maurecourt and Morisot’s 1885 Self-Portrait. Visitors should look for the large amounts of blank space in these canvases.
The seven paintings featured in Threshold Spaces showcase Morisot’s exploration of in-between spaces like verandas, balconies and other transitional areas. Morisot used windows to blend interior scenes and outdoor painting. In works like On the Veranda from 1884, even the sharpest eye may not be able to tell whether the red-haired girl in the photo is sitting inside or out.
Morisot’s decisions to exhibit works that look unfinished and portray women in areas outside traditional household settings were considered bold choices for her time.
The Barnes Foundation has scheduled a number of events to coincide with Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist, including special exhibition tours from Wednesday, October 24 through Monday, January 14 (the final day of the exhibition).
On Monday, November 19 and Monday, December 3, two different art history doctoral students from the University of Pennsylvania lead in-depth discussions about Morisot’s Self-Portrait and The Artist’s Sister at a Window, respectively.
And storytellers, musicians and dancers — all women — bring their crafts to the Barnes for PECO Free First Sunday Family Day: She Creates on Sunday, December 2.
Tickets to Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist are included with general admission, and are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors, $5 for students and free for members. Exhibition tours are $45.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see an unprecedented collection of paintings from the only woman whose work is recognized alongside that of renowned male impressionists.