Berthe Morisot was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. Undervalued for over a century, possibly because she was a woman, Berthe Morisot is now considered among the first league of Impressionist painters.
Born January 14, 1841, in Bourges, France, Berthe Morisot was the third daughter of a prominent and wealthy government official. The family moved to Paris in 1852, where her father served as the Judicial Adviser to the Auditor's Office. This powerful position, with its high salary and important political associations, allowed the Morisot's to lead a privileged lifestyle as members of the upper middle class. Berthe Morisot was a grand-daughter of the painter Fragonard and the sister-in-law of Manet, but her interest in painting was not the result of this connection. Berthe Morisot and her older sister Edma quickly developed both a passion and a high level of skill in drawing and painting. Alongside her sister, Berthe Morisot copied masterpieces at the Louvre and painted out of doors.
By age twenty, Berthe Morisot had met and befriended the important, and pivotal, landscape painter Camille Corot. The older artist instructed Berthe and her sister in painting and introduced them to other artists and teachers. Under Corot's influence, Morisot took up the plein air method of working. As art students, Berthe and Edma worked closely together until Edma married, had children, and no longer had time to paint so intensely as Berthe. Letters between them show a loving and cordial relationship, underscored by Berthe's regret at the distance between them and about Edma's withdrawal from painting. Edma wholeheartedly supported Berthe's continued work and the families of the two sisters always remained close.
Berthe Morisot first exhibited her paintings at the prestigious annual Salon in 1864, and her work was shown there regularly through 1873.Berthe Morisot's style continued to develop in her later years, Her brother-in-law, friend and mentor, Edouard Manet, died in 1883. After his death, Berthe Morisot came under the influence of Renoir. Morisot believed in the capabilities of all women. "I don't think there has ever been a man who treated a woman as an equal and that's all I would have asked, for I know I'm worth as much as they," she once said. But Berthe Morisot lived in a time when equal treatment was rare.
Even though Berthe Morisot produced more than 860 paintings, her death certificate states she had "no profession". Morisot left her collection of Degas, Monet and Renoir paintings to her daughter, Julie Manet. After her death, she became known more for being a friend and model of Edouard Manet than an artist in her own right. Although Morisot's work was generally well reviewed when it was exhibited, she did not become known internationally as an artist until 1905, when the London Impressionist exhibition displayed 13 of her paintings. It took almost a full century before Berthe Morisot's work received the credit it deserved.