Arts Everyday Living: Celebrating Women’s History–Impressionist Berthe Morisot, Pink Peonies



March is Women’s History Month and we will be featuring women artists through the centuries. A number of them are “famous,” but others have been overlooked and still being discovered. So enjoy our special online exhibition with fast facts highlights accompanying each image. Generally, the works of art will be presented chronologically.

Berthe Morisot, Peonies, c. 1869, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Title: Peonies, c. 1869

Artist: Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

Can you think of anything as beautiful as a bouquet of flowers? In this case, an arrangement of peonies, so delicate in quality that we might hesitate to touch them. Perhaps afraid that the petals might start to drop off before our eyes. Or has that process already started?

Created by French Impressionist Berthe Morisot who expresses in paint her love for the floral miracle before us. Notice, for instance, how she applies her brushstroke, sometimes thickly as in the center of the fullest blossom, yet also thinly in the leaves. The choice of colors is exquisite: pink dominates, mixed in with rose and red. Even the brown sheen of the table, rich in tone, reflecting the glass vase.


FAST FACTS: Born January 14, 1841 in Bourges, France, although spent most of her life in Passy, a suburb of Paris. Father a senior government official, mother descendent of Rococo painter, Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806). Both Berthe and her sister Edma studied art–among their teachers was master Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), often considered influential to the development of the Impressionists. Edma basically gave up painting after her marriage, but Berthe continued her career until her death.

Morisot and artistic innovator Edouard Manet (1832-1883) were close, both artistically and personally, resulting in some eleven portraits  of Berthe by the older artist. Morisot wed Eugene Manet, Edouard’s brother in 1874, they had one daughter Julie, born in 1878.  

Morisot was a member of the core group of the Impressionists, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, and Cassatt. She participated in every one of their joint exhibitions except in 1879 after the birth of Julie. Morisot, like Cassatt, is known for her domestic themes, especially centering on her family including her sisters and their children as well as Julie. Morisot died in 1895 at the age of 54.

Sources: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. website and Tate website, London, UK.




In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or acny of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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