Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)

Berthe Morisot 1

Self-Portrait,” from 1885. Courtesy Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images [from The New Yorker, October 29, 2018].

She had the loosest, least finished-looking of Impressionist techniques—a trait that helps explain her neglect, versus the more decisively branded manners of the men, but one that also fascinates. Her paintings, indefinite at first glance, are hard to stop contemplating once you’ve started. It’s as if she had truncated a process of picturing that we, as viewers, irresistibly see through to completion.

Berthe Morisot 2

Reclining Woman in Grey,” from 1879. Courtesy Christian Baraja [from The New Yorker, October 29, 2018].

(Peter Schjeldahl, “Berthe Morisot, ‘Woman Impressionist,’ Emerges from the Margins,” The New Yorker, 10-29-18)

(c) 2018 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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6 Responses to Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    Ew, Peter Schjeldahl. Oh gawd, has he been drinking the social justice Kool-Aid, too? Last I checked, Mary Cassatt was a woman, and also had a less wispy style, and, by they way, was fairly successful in her lifetime. But do let’s make gender the issue, Peter.

    I think sometimes Morisot’s style works for her, and sometimes not as much. It’s good for a light, wispy, subject matter. It’s quite good for traditional Impressionist subjects, like outdoors with water, reflections, and so on. The ducks are wonderful in this painting: https://artchive.ru/artists/1133~Berthe_Morisot/works/193246~Summer_day

    • JMN says:

      Yes, I admire Cassatt, too. The art commentary I mainly come upon more or less regularly is Schjeldahl (though I’ve let me subscription to The New Yorker lapse) and Roberta Smith. Mr. Schjeldahl does seem giddy now and then from inhaling his own afflatus! He remarked at the outset of his article on Morisot that one of her paintings of a woman “radiated selfhood.” I think that was the phrase. It gave me a “Wait, what?” moment. But I do get some nourishment from her pictures (the link you provide shows a lovely one). The hasty, unfinished look of her pictures is “intriguing.” (That seems to be my word of the moment — I need to find a synonym!) I’ve noticed over the years that I often find artists’ sketches and studies at least as stimulating, or more so, than the finished paintings. Odd but true (to me), that I can eke profit from seeing work that’s less than first rank, maybe because it feeds a fantasy that I could be in striking distance of a comparable feat. Frolicking in shallow waters. Who knows? I don’t mean to be superficial though. I like the probing nature of your evaluations. And on top of being an artist, you’re a teacher, for goodness sake. That becomes clearer to me now. Good teaching is performative as well as communicative. A good teacher is rare and wonderful. I’ve done it, but not sure I’m good at it. “Ars longa, vita brevis.” My Latin’s rusty. I’m not sure the spelling’s right on that, but the saying is good.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        Schjeldahl lost me horribly when he wrote a very nasty summation of the career of Francis Bacon, who is probably my favorite 20th century painter. Jerry Salz and Jed Perl also took huge craps on Bacon. I think one of my best articles of art criticism is my defense of Bacon, and in which I take those critics to task.

        Doubtlessly those critics have a lot of good things to say about the art they do like, (Salz loves his Duchamp urinal, by Gad), but hating Bacon, to me, when you are an art critic, is to fail a litmus test. I think it was Schjeldahl who also didn’t like Lucien Freud. Worse were the shoddy arguments they put together to back their hatred, and even worse than that was the character assassination.

        Sometimes I really don’t care for the art world.

      • JMN says:

        Gosh, I have some familiarity with Bacon’s and Freud’s work and think sell of them. I wonder what the critics’ beef with Bacon is. (Ouch. I sincerely didn’t aim to create a pun there.) Where does the animus come from in such cases. In my meanders through poetry, and I’m not deeply versed in it professionally, I’ve found that some of the most interesting appraisals of a given writer’s work are the ones done by other poets. Have you experienced that with painters? I did read a little book by Kandinsky years ago, “On the Spiritual in Art” I think it was called, but remember little of it. I’m sure there’s a substantial body of writing by artists about other artists. Or not?

      • Eric Wayne says:

        Artists are mostly curiously silent on other artist’s work. I think it’s considered bad publicity to be verbally articulate, and if one is critical of another artist, than that’s also not good for the art industry. In the end it’s all about money.

      • JMN says:

        I meant to say “think *well* of them.” It’s interesting, the relative silence of artists about each other that you point out. There does seem to be a certain tradition of painters acquiring other painters’ works to the extent they’re able. Perhaps that’s a form of non-verbal respect-paying? All the more interesting, if so, to know what’s in artists’ personal collections. I guess poets have little compunction about sounding off on each other because there’s no money in poetry!

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