Berthe Morisot – One of "Les Trois Grandes Dames" of Impressionism

When we think of women who created Impressionist paintings, we hear a lot about Mary Cassatt. But there were 2 other equally talented painters from that era whose works remain largely in the shadows of art history.

In 1894, Gustave Geffroy, an influential French art critic, referred to Mary Cassatt, Marie Bracquemond, and Berthe Morisot as "Les Trois Grandes Dames" of Impressionism. 

Only one woman created a style, and that woman is Madame Morisot. Her pictures are the only pictures painted by a woman that could not be destroyed without creating a blank, a hiatus in the history of art.
— George Moore

Today we'll explore the life and art of Berthe Morisot...

Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875-1880

Berthe grew up in a wealthy family, where her artistic talents were supported and encouraged. She and her sister Edma were privately tutored by the best art teachers, and went on to become registered copyists at The Louvre in Paris.

Art history lesson for kids– Explore the art of Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

Edma stopped painting when she married, but Berthe's art career continued and flourished.

She met other famous artists of the day, and exhibited with The Salon (the most prestigious accomplishment for a painter at that time).

She mainly painted domestic scenes, and loved to paint "en plein air" (outdoors), like most of her Impressionist friends. She also loved to paint portraits, and domestic scenes.

In 1872, an exciting thing happened when a private art dealer bought 22 of her paintings.

{Photo of Berthe Morisot, 1875.}

Two years later, she married Eugéne Manet (brother of the famous painter Édouard Manet). They had a daughter named Julie who (in 1987) published her memoirs: Growing Up with the Impressionists: The Diary of Julie Manet.

Berthe Morisot's art was usually small in scale, and she was known for doing amazing things with color. Impressionists really tried to capture a moment in time, and make it almost seem like a memory or a dream. Their paintings weren't detailed, but instead were full of whimsical beauty. Looking at an Impressionist painting makes you feel like you just caught a glimpse of something, but it went away before you could get a good look.

Art history lesson for kids– Explore the art of Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

Berthe Morisot, Child in the Hollyhocks, 1881

Her life was like an enclosed lake, never churned up by storms, calm, lines, and at one with her work.
— Armand Fourreau (Morisot's first biographer)

Berthe sat for her brother-in-law, and famous artist, Édouard Manet. This painting might look innocent to you, but it caused a lot of commotion in the art world, and she was called unkind names for the way she sat here. 

She didn't let things like this bother her, though. Berthe was a very strong woman, and she focused only on her art... ignoring the things that people said about her. 

Impressionists as a group were kind of rebellious. During the time they painted, the highest honor was to exhibit with The Salon in Paris. The Salon did not appreciate the new style of art that the Impressionists were creating, and they would rarely include it in their shows.

So, the Impressionists created their own Exhibition. They believed in what they were doing, and they stood up to the old establishments to show them that new wasn't necessarily bad.

Art history lesson for kids– Explore the art of Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

Édouard Manet, Le Repose, 1870-1871

Invite your kids to create their own impressionist painting! Here's how:

  • Encourage them to identify the subject of their painting. Impressionists often painted "en plein air" or outside. They also painted domestic scenes, and portraits of daily life.
  • Invite them to use a bright vibrant color palette.
  • Share with them that impressionists painted with short strokes and applied their paint thickly.
Art history lesson for kids– Explore the art of Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

Berthe Morisot, Reading, 1888

Once your kids have created their masterpieces, share them on Instagram using our hashtag– #arthistorykids

And show us a photo of their painting in our private facebook group. We chat about books, art, and all things creative! Come join us!