Berthe Morisot, Impressionism’s Most Relentless Innovator, Is Finally Receiving Her Due

Berthe Morisot: Self-Portrait, 1885.COURTESY THE BARNES FOUNDATION, PHILADELPHIA, AND MUSÉE MARMOTTAN MONET, PARIS. PHOTO MUSÉE MARMOTTAN MONET, PARIS, AND BRIDGEMAN IMAGES.

Widespread recognition is arriving over a century late for Berthe Morisot, a true innovator who died at the height of her promise. She was a founding member of Impressionism, whose marquee names counted themselves as both admirers and friends. But, unlike her peers, whose more experimental inclinations were tempered by a need to please patrons, her canvases bear vivacious brushstrokes and unusual figuration which nearly leapfrogged Impressionism to abstraction. She featured prominently in every annual Impressionist exhibitions, except one that she missed because she was recovering after the birth of her daughter.

These shows were generally met with acclaim. Critic Paul Mantz wrote in his review of the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877 that “there is only one true Impressionist in the whole revolutionary group—and that is Mlle Berthe Morisot.” Yet Morisot’s gender also played a role in how she was perceived.

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