Olga's Gallery

Berthe Morisot Biography

Berthe Morisot Portrait

Berthe Morisot, a French painter, was born into the family of a high-ranking civil servant in the Department of Cher, descending indirectly from the Rococo painter Fragonard. She was first introduced to art in 1857, when she began to take drawing lessons. Berthe Morisot soon moved on to copying the artwork of the masters, starting with "the classics"--the artists of the Renaissance--and ending with Corot, whose work she had the advantage of discussing with the artist himself. In 1860-1862, together with her sister Edna (later Mme Pontillon), Berthe was a pupil of Corot. Corot advised her to go to Auvers-sur-Oise and learn to paint plein-air.

In 1864, Berthe exhibited her first landscapes at the Paris Salon. In 1868, she was acquainted and soon became close friends with Edouard Manet, who gave her advice and used her as a model in his own art (Repose, The Balcony, etc.). In 1872, she traveled in Spain. From 1874 and until 1886 she exhibited at all of the Impressionist exhibitions, except the 4th, as a result of illness. In 1874, she married Edouard's brother Eugène Manet. In 1881-1883, they had a house built in Paris which became a weekly meeting place for painters and writers such as Degas, Caillebotte, Monet, Pissaro, Whistler, Puvis de Chavannes, Duret, Renoir, Mallarmé and others. Mallarmé became her closest friend and greatest admirer.

In 1892, she was widowed and decided to move away from Paris, purchasing a château in Mesnil, where she spent her last years. In 1895, soon after her death, a large memorial exhibition took place at Durand-Ruel's with 300 paintings; the introduction to the catalogue was written by Mallarmé.

Berthe was a female artist in a male-dominated art movement, and though her techniques and methods aligned with the rest of the Impressionists, her paintings stand apart. Her work was focused on depicting women, children and contemporary domestic life, providing a perspective on a side of society that her male colleagues were uninterested in, or couldn't capture.


Berthe Morisot: The First Lady of Impressionism by Margaret Shennan. Sutton Publishing, 2000.

Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet. University of California Press, 1995.

Berthe Morisot by Kathleen Adler, Tamar Garb. Phaidon Press Inc., 1995.

Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt by Jeffrey Meyers. Harcourt, 2005.