Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets,
a portrait by Édouard Manet, dated 1872
In 1864, her work began to be admitted for exhibition in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris.
Sponsored by the government and judged by academicians, the salon is the annual juried exhibition of the best new paintings and sculptures, the official art exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris. Her work continued to be selected for exhibition in the salon for ten years before, in 1874, she joined the "rejected" Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which was foundered by Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley. It was held at the studio of the photographer, Nadar.
See examples of Morisot's art at the WebMuseum She was the grand niece of the painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and she became the sister-in-law of her friend and colleague, Édouard Manet when she married his brother.
Morisot was born in Bourges, Cher, France into a successful bourgeois family. Both she and her sister Edma Morisot chose to become painters. Once Berthe Morisot settled on pursuing art, her family did not impede her career.
She was born into a family that had included one of the most prolific Rococo painters of the ancien régime, Fragonard, whose handling of colour and expressive, confident brushwork influenced later painters. By age twenty, she had met and befriended the important, and pivotal, landscape painter of the Barbizon School, who excelled in figure painting as well, Camille Corot.
The older artist instructed Berthe and her sister in painting and introduced them to other artists and teachers. Under Corot's influence, Morisot took up the plein air method of working. As art students Berthe and Edma worked closely together. Their artistic camaraderie ended when Edma married, had children, and no longer had time to paint so intensely as Berthe. Letters between them show a loving and cordial relationship, underscored by Berthe's regret at the distance between them and about Edma's withdrawal from painting. Edma wholeheartedly supported Berthe's continued work and the families of the two sisters always remained close.
Manet and impressionism
Morisot's first appearance in the Salon de Paris came at the age of twenty-three in 1864, with the acceptance of two landscape paintings. She continued to show regularly in the Salon until 1874, the year of the first impressionist exhibition.
Meanwhile, in 1868 Morisot became acquainted with Édouard Manet. He took a special interest in Morisot, as is evident from his warm portrayal of her in several paintings. One includes a striking portrait study of Morisot in a black veil, while in mourning for her father's death. It is displayed at the top of the article. Correspondence between them bespeaks affection. He once gave her an easel as a Christmas present. He also interfered in one of her Salon submissions when he was engaged to transport it. Manet mistook one of Morisot's simple self-criticisms, as an invitation to add his corrections, which he did, much to Morisot's dismay.
Although traditionally Manet has been related as the master and Morisot as the follower, there is evidence that their relationship was a reciprocating one. Morisot had developed her own distinctive artistic style. Records of paintings show Manet's approval and appreciation of certain stylistic and compositional decisions that Morisot originated. He incorporated some of these characteristics into his own work.
It was Morisot who convinced Manet to attempt plein air painting, which she had been practicing since having been introduced to it by Corot.
She also drew Manet into the circle of painters who soon became known as, the Impressionists. In 1874, Morisot married Manet's brother, Eugene, and they had one daughter, Julie.
As a doctrinaire impressionist as well as a member of the haute bourgeoisie, Morisot painted what she experienced on a daily basis.
Her works include not only landscapes, portraits, garden settings, and boating scenes, but also subjects portraying the comfort and intimacy of family and domestic life, as did her colleagues, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Mary Cassatt.
Berthe Morisot died on March 2, 1895 in Paris and was interred in the Cimetière de Passy.