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Breaking Gender Barriers: The Art of Berthe Morisot

Abhishek Kumar


“Men are inclined to believe that they fill all of one’s life, but as for me, I think that no matter how much affection a woman has for her husband, it is not easy for her to break with a life of work.”

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot, “Self-Portrait,” 1885

Berthe Morisot was a trailblazing French impressionist painter who was a key figure in the development of the modern art movement. She was one of the first female painters to break gender barriers in the art world, and her work has since become iconic. Morisot’s art was characterized by its lightness and delicacy. She often used pastel colours and soft brushstrokes to create a dream-like quality in her work. Her art was also notable for its strong use of composition and the way she used light and shadow to create depth. Her distinctive style of long, quick brushstrokes was used to capture with great effect the spontaneity of such scenes as flowering gardens and domestic life.

“The Harbor at Lorient,” 1870

Morisot was born on 14 January 1841 in Bourges, France. She began her artistic training at an early age, under the guidance of her aunt, the painter Julie Morisot. She also studied with the academic painter Camille Corot. Morisot’s career began in 1864 when she was accepted into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This was a major breakthrough for a woman in the 19th century as the school was predominantly male-dominated. She soon gained recognition for her work and was included in the first Impressionist group exhibition in 1874. She was also the only female Impressionist to exhibit her work regularly in the Paris Salons. During this time, she also made several important friendships, including with the impressionist painter Edouard Manet.

Villa with Orange Trees by Morisot

Morisot’s work was based on the traditional French style of painting, with an emphasis on the effects of light and colour. Her work was characterized by a delicate, dreamy quality and often depicted everyday scenes of women in leisurely pursuits such as walking, sewing, and reading. Her compositions often featured women in bustling domestic scenes, playing with children, or in intimate settings such as a boudoir. Her portraits, which were often of friends and family members, also displayed her skill at capturing subtle expressions.

Pasie Sewing in Bourgival’s Garden by Morisot

Despite her immense talent, she was often disregarded and underestimated due to her gender. In a time when being a professional artist was almost impossible for a woman, she was able to break through the gender barriers and become one of the most influential female artists of her time. Morisot’s work was often overshadowed by her male counterparts, as she was often excluded from major exhibitions and salons. Despite this, she continued to paint and develop her own style. Her work has since been recognized for its skill and beauty, and she has become an important figure in the history of art. Her contributions to impressionism, and art in general, have made her an important role model for female artists.

The Cradle by Berthe Morisot, 1872

Morisot’s work was praised by critics, and she was even given the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1882 by the French government. This was a major achievement as it was a recognition of her talent and success as an artist. Morisot’s success as an artist was not only an achievement in her own right, but also a major milestone for female artists. In a time when women were expected to remain in the domestic sphere, she was able to defy gender norms and become a successful artist. Her work is a testament to her immense talent and courage, and an inspiration for female artists everywhere. She was one of the first women to break through the barriers of gender and society in the art world. She was a strong advocate for women’s rights and often used her art to express her views on the subject.

Eugene Manet & His Daughter in the Garden at Bougival by Morisot


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berthe_Morisot
  2. https://mymodernmet.com/berthe-morisot-biography/
  3. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/morisot-berthe/
  4. https://www.worldhistory.org/Berthe_Morisot/