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asaliba's picture

Contributor

Berthe Morisot isn’t having any of your anti-woman mumbo jumbo today.

Morisot was not one for diminishing her subject’s intellect. So she set her reader down on an open field of grass, with a book in hand, ignoring all the fools passing who were no doubt trying to win her attention. Instead, Morisot’s reader sits center stage, bathing in the sunlight that falls over her and the green grass, her delicate floral patterned dress mimicking the surrounding wildflowers. Though the scene is calm and pleasant, this reader is no doubt a rebel of her time, and was modeled after Morisot’s sister Edma.

Edma discards her fan and umbrella to immerse herself in the novel, driving the point home than women should not only care about fashion, but also dedicate themselves to education. Morisot even did some post-edit work on Reading by retouching Edma’s eyes towards the book to give the appearance that the woman is a serious thinker. Morisot’s paintings often depict women in domestic settings, either doing their hair or sitting over a cradleReading is slightly different than her images of women in interior spaces. Though the reader here is certainly the focus of the work, there is equal attention paid to the greenery of the landscape around her, which is indicative of the Impressionists interest in painting en plein air, quickly rendering an artwork outside to capture the sunlight in a specific moment. 

It was quite improper for 19th century upper-class women to go outside their home unaccompanied by a male escort. This is a real injustice, and Morisot was not one to stand by and abide by the rules, though she was forced to find loopholes. To avoid scandal, Reading may have taken place on a private estate. 

Unfortunately, even critics played the gender game with Morisot. She became quite frustrated at being overlooked when in the company of her colleges like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and her brother-in-law Edouard Manet. “I know I am worth as much as they are,” she penned in her diary. Damn right, sister!

Sources

Sources

  1. Brown, Kathryn J., Women Readers in French Painting: 1870-1890: A Space for the Imagination. Surrey: Ashgate, 2012.
  2. Cascone, Sarah, “Once overlooked, Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot is about to be everywhere – here’s why,” Artnet News, May 16, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/impressionist-master-berthe-morisot-...
  3. Dube, Ilene, “Why Berthe Morisot was an essential figure in the Impressionist Movement,” Hyperallergic, October 331, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://hyperallergic.com/468570/why-berthe-morisot-was-an-essential-fig...
  4. Hine, Thomas, “Berthe Morisot at the Barnes: fresh, smart work from the overlooked Impressionist,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 18, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/philly/entertainment/berthe-morisot-barnes-foun...
  5. Martinique, Elena, “It is time to talk about Berthe Morisot, an important woman Impressionist,” Widewalls, November 4, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://www.widewalls.ch/berthe-morisot-exhibition-barnes-foundation/
  6. Jessica Skwire Routhier, “Berthe Morisot: woman Impressionist”, Antiques and the Arts Weekly, February 13, 2019. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://www.antiquesandthearts.com/berthe-morisot-woman-impressionist-2/