Berthe Morisot, one of the few women of the Impressionist Movement, with her dark locks and stunning gaze, was the perfect model for Édouard Manet. However, she would become an artist in her own right stepping behind the canvas to create paintings that showed everyday family life, forging her own path among the male dominated Impressionists
Born on January 14, 1841 to a wealthy family, her father was the prefect but also studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her mother was the niece of the Rococo master Jean-Honoré Fragonard, she was born with art running in her veins. In 1852 they moved to Paris and her parents let Berthe and her sister Edma take art lessons from Joseph Guichard.
The two girls visited the Louvre as art students and spent their day copying the great masters under the watchful eye of Guichard. One day artist Henri Fantin-Latour took his friend Édouard Manet to the Louvre to meet the Morisot sisters who were copying a Rubens painting. It would be the start of a very long friendship.
Following Manet’s shocking of the Parisian Salon with Olympia and Déjeuner sur l’herbe he was looking for a new model, and Berthe would have everything he wanted. In 1868, Manet painted The Balcony for which Berthe would pose after much apprehension. Being a model for an artist was not the profession for a woman of society in Paris at the time. Continuing to work with Manet for six years, he would capture her many times including his hauntingly beautiful painting, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets that can be seen in the Orsay. Painted in 1872 Morisot is in black mourning attire after her father's death. You almost miss the violets as you are so drawn to her striking face. Morisot and Manet had a relationship built on great respect and between two artists. I can stand in front of this painting for hours and lose all track of time.
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