Tag Archives: Berthe Morisot

Julie Daydreaming by Berthe Morisot

15 May

“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” (Edgar Allan Poe)

Berthe Morisot, Julie Daydreaming, 1894

A portrait of a wistful round-faced girl in a loose white gown, with large heavy-lidded dreamy eyes, pouting and gazing in the distance, supporting her face with a delicate white hand; it’s Julie Manet, portrayed here in the sweet state of daydreams in the spring of her life, aged sixteen, by her mother Berthe Morisot.

I have been loving this portrait of Julie, it’s charming and subject of daydreams is very well known to me, but this is just one out of many portraits of Julie that Morisot has done. Julie was her mother’s treasure and her favourite motif to paint since the moment she was born on 14 November 1878, when Morisot was thirty-seven years old. Morisot comes from a wealthy family with good connections and this enabled her the freedom to pursue her artistic career. Another interesting thing is that her mother, Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie Thomas was the great-niece of the Rococo master Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Berthe had art flowing her veins.

Berthe Morisot, Julie with Her Nurse, 1880

Berte Morisot was part of the Impressionist circles, and married Eugene Manet, younger brother of Edouard Manet. Very early on, she had shown interest in painting children and made lots of portraits of her sisters with their children, so the arrival of little Julie enriched both her personal and artistic life, and she was known to have always tried mingling the two together, as explained by the poet Paul Valéry, her niece’s husband: “But Berthe Morisot singularity consisted in … living her painting and painting her life, as if this were for her a natural and necessary function, tied to her vital being, this exchange between observation and action, creative will and light … As a girl, wife, and mother, her sketches and paintings follow her destiny and accompany it very closely.

When Morisot painted other children, those were just paintings, studies, paint-on-canvas, but with Julie it was more than that, it was a project, one we could rightfully call “Julie grows up” or “studies of Julie” because since the moment Julie was born to the moment Morisot herself died, in 1895, she painted from 125 to 150 paintings of her daughter. Degas had his ballerinas, Monet his water lilies and poplars, and Berthe had her little girl to paint. It’s interesting that Morisot never portrayed motherhood in a typical sentimental Victorian way with a dotting mother resembling Raphael’s Madonna and an angelic-looking child with rosy cheeks. She instead gave Julie her identity, even in the early portraits she emphasised her individuality and tended to concentrate on her inner life. This makes Julie real, we can follow her personality, her interests and even her clothes through the portraits. Also, Morisot didn’t hesitate to paint Julie with her nanny or wet nurse, showing her opinion that the maternal love isn’t necessarily of the physical nature, but artistic; she preferred painting over breastfeeding her baby girl.

Édouard Manet, Julie Manet sitting on a Watering Can, 1882

As a lucky little girl and a daughter of two artists, Julie received a wonderful artistic upbringing. She was educated at home by her parents, and spent only a brief time at a local private school. Morisot, who saw her nieces Jeannie and Paule Gobillard as her own daughters, taught all three girls how to paint and draw, and also the history of art itself. Morisot took Julie to Louvre, analysed sculptures in parks with her and together they discussed the colour of shadows in nature; they are not grey as was presented in academic art. Morisot also started an alphabet book for Julie, called “Alphabet de Bibi” because “Bibi” was Julie’s nickname; each page included two letters accompanied by illustrations. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of that online)

Still, Morisot wasn’t the only one to capture Julie growing up, other Impressionist did too, most notably Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Julie’s uncle Edouard Manet who made a cute depiction of a four year old Julie sitting on a watering can, wearing a blue dress and rusty-red bonnet. Julie’s childhood seems absolutely amazing, but her teenage years were not so bright. In 1892, her father passed away, and in 1895 her mother too; she was just sixteen years old and an orphan. The famous symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who died himself just four years later, became her guardian, and she was sent to live with her cousins.

Berthe Morisot, The Artist’s Daughter Julie with her Nanny, c. 1884.

Berthe Morisot, Young Girl with Doll, 1884

Like all Impressionist, Bethe Morisot painted scenes that are pleasant to the eye and very popular to modern audience, but what appeals me the most about her art is the facture; in her oils it’s almost sketch-like, it’s alive, it breaths and takes on life of its own, her bold use of white, her brushstrokes of rich colour that look as if they are flowing like a vivacious river on the surface of the canvas, and her pastels have something poetic about them. Just look at the painting The Artist’s Daughter Julie with her Nanny above, look at those strong, wilful strokes of white and blue, that tickles my fancy! Or the white sketch-like strokes on Julie with Her Nurse.

It was Renoir who encouraged Morisot to experiment with her colour palette and free both the colour and brushwork. It may not come as a surprise that Julie loved her mother’s artworks, in fact the lovely painting of a girl clutching her doll was Julie’s favourite, and she had it hanged above her bed. Imagine waking up to this gorgeous scene, knowing that it was painter by your dearest mama.

Berthe Morisot, The Piano, 1889

Both Renoir and Morisot fancied portraying girl playing piano, and this is Morisot’s version of the motif, made in pastel. The girl painted in profile, playing piano and looking at the music sheet is Julie’s cousin Jeannie, while the eleven year old Julie is shown wearing a light blue dress and sporting a boyish hairstyle. She is here, but her thoughts are somewhere else, her head is leaned on her hand and she’s daydreaming… Oh, Julie, what occupies your mind?

Berthe Morisot, Portrait of Julie, 1889

And here is a beautiful pastel portrait of Julie, also aged eleven but looking more girly with soft curls framing her round face, and a pretty pink bow. There’s something so poetic about her face; her almond shaped eyes gaze at something we don’t see, her face is always tinged with melancholy, even in her photo. Playful strokes of white chalk across her face, her auburn hair ending in sketch-like way…

Berthe Morisot, Portrait of Julie Manet Holding a Book, 1889

Berthe Morisot, Julie Manet with a Budgie, 1890

As you can see, in all the paintings from the “Julie series”, Julie is presented in an individualised way, not like typical girl portraits of the time with golden tresses and clutching a doll, looking cheerful and naive, rather, Morisot painted her reading a book, playing an instrument, daydreaming, lost in her thoughts, or sitting next to her pets, the budgie and the greyhound. Morisot wanted more for Julie that the role of a mother and a wife which was the typical Victorian ideal of womanhood, because as a prolific artist with a successful career, Morisot had also chosen an alternative path in life. There’s a distinct dreaminess and slight sadness about Julie’s face in most of these portraits, which only becomes emphasised as she grows older.

Now the “Julie grows up” element comes to the spotlight. We’ve seen Julie as a baby with honey-coloured hair, we’ve seen her with her pets, playing violin or listening to her cousin playing piano, but Julie is growing up so quickly… almost too quick to capture with a brush and some paint! My absolute favourite portrait of Julie is one from 1894, Julie Daydreaming, which reveals her inner life and her dreamy disposition the best. I love her white dress, her gaze, the shape of her hands, I love how every lock of hair is shaped by a single brushstroke. There’s a hint of sensuality in it as well, and it has drawn comparisons to Munch’s “sexual Madonnas”, which seems unusual at first since it was painted by her mother. I don’t really see it that way though, I see it simply as a portrait of a wistful girl in white wrapped in the sweetness of her daydreams.

I can’t help but wonder what she is daydreaming about. Tell me Julie, whisper it in my ear, I won’t tell a soul; is there a boy you fancy, would you like to walk through the meadows full of poppies, or watch the dew as it catches on the soft petals on roses in some garden far away, do you dream of damsels and troubadours, would you like to fly on Aladdin’s magical carpet, or listen to the sea in Brittany, what fills your soul with sadness Julie? And please, do tell me where you bought that dress – I want the same one!

Berthe Morisot, Julie Manet and her Greyhound Laerte, 1893

Berthe Morisot, Julie Playing a Violin, 1893

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Julie Manet, 1894

This portrait of Julie Manet by Renoir is particularly interesting to me; Julie is shown with masses of long auburn-brown hair, flushed cheeks, large elongated blue eyes with a sad gaze, in a sombre black dress against a grey background. The melancholic air of the portrait reminds me of one portrait from 1857 of Millais’ young little model and muse Sophy Gray; the same rosy cheeks, the same melancholic blue eyes and brown tresses.

John Everett Millais, Sophy Gray, 1857

And now Julie is a woman! In May 1900 a double wedding ceremony was held; Julie married Ernest Rouart and her cousin Jeannie Gobillard married Paul Válery. Her teenage diary, which she began writing in August 1893, is published under the name “Growing Up with Impressionists”. What started as just a bunch of notes, impressions and scribbles turned out to be a book in its own right, one which shows the art world and fin de siecle society through the eyes of a teenage girl. Julie died on Bastille Day, 14th July, in 1966.

Photo of Julie Manet, 1894

She looks so frail and sad in the photo, but I can’t help but admire her lovely dress and hat. Sad little Julie, you just keep on daydreaming….

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Impressionists – Profiles

23 Nov

Impressionism in a 19th century art movement that originated in Paris. It was considered radical at the time it appeared; vivid colours and sketch like appearance of the paintings was something completely new to the audience who was accustomed to more somber paintings exhibited at the Salon.

1870s Dancers - Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917)

PAINTING STYLE:

– asymmetrical composition (influence of Japonism)

– his portraits are known for their portrayal of human isolation and their psychological complexity

– off-center compositions, experiments with color and form

– his painting style shows admiration for the old masters and his admiration for Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Eugene Delacroix

– sense of movement is evident in his paintings

– ‘rich-colored realism’

PAINTING SUBJECTS: ballerinas, dancers, nudes, Parisian cafe scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Bellelli family

Woman in the Bath

Stage Rehearsal

L’Absinthe

INTERESTING FACTS: he believed that ‘the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown‘.

– known for his often cruel wit

1863.  Luncheon on the Grass by Manet small

Edouard Manet (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883)

PAINTING STYLE:

-black outlining of figures (his work is considered as ‘early modern’)

– roughly painted style and photographic lighting

– composition reveals his study of the old masters such as Giorgione, Titian, Velazquez and Goya

– flatness; inspired by Japanese woodblock prints

PAINTING SUBJECTS: cafe scenes, paintings of social activities, Paris street scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Luncheon on the Grass (1863.)

Olympia (1863.)

Young Flautist (1866.)

Music in the Tuileries (1862.)

The Railway (1872.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– he often used Victorien Meuret as a model

– married his piano teacher, a Dutch lady Suzanne Leenhoff whom he used as a model as well

1872. Claude Monet- Impression, soleil levant

 

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he used bright colours in dabs and dashes and squiggles of paint

– by painting landscapes he tried to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons

– he studied the effects of atmosphere

– due to his bad eye sight near the end of his life, he started painting with dots

PAINTING SUBJECTS: gardens and water lilies, women in garden or outdoors, river and boats, Rouen cathedral

FAMOUS WORKS:

Impression, Sunrise

Rouen Cathedral Series

London Parlament Series

Water lilies

INTERESTING FACTS:

– had a large family and married two times

1876. Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette - Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919)

PAINTING STYLE:

– vibrant light and saturated colour

–  warm sensuality

– through freely brushed touches of color,  figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings

– he admired the 18th century master Francois Boucher, as well as Raphael and Renaissance masters

PAINTING SUBJECTS: focus on people in intimate and candid compositions, female nude

FAMOUS WORKS:

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880.)

Nude (1910.)

Bal du moulin de la Galette (1876.)

The Theatre Box (1874.)

Two Sisters (1881.)

1872. Berthe Morisot, The Cradle

Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895)

PAINTING STYLE:

– She worked in oil paint, watercolor, pastel, and produced sketches

– sense of space and depth through the use of color

– used white expansively in her paintings

– influenced by the color and expressive, confident brushwork of Fragonard

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models, including her daughter Julie, landscapes, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes, later nudes (avoided urban and street scenes)

– Her paintings reflect the 19th-century cultural restrictions of her class and gender

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Cradle (1872.)

Lady at her Toilette (1875.)

Reading (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she was married to Edouard Manet’s brother Eugene with whom she had a daughter Julie

– she was the one who introduced plein-air technique to Manet, after Corot had shared it with her

1878. Self-portrait by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– while in Italy she studied works of Correggio and Parmigianino

– Under the influence of Impressionist, Cassatt revised her technique, composition, and use of color and light, manifesting her admiration for the works of the French savant garde, especially Degas and Manet

– soft colour palette and light backgrounds

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life, portraits, mother-and-child subjects, opera scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge (1879.)

In the Box (1879)

Self-portrait (1878.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she admired Degas and his pastels had left a deep impression on her

– she was very close with Degas and they shared similar tastes in art, music and literature, they had studied painting in Italy, came from affluent backgrounds, were independent and never married

1875. Les Raboteurs de parquet - Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he painted in more realistic manner then the rest of the gruop

– influenced by Japanese prints and photography

– intense interest in perspective effects

– he used a soft impressionistic technique reminiscent of Renoir to convey the tranquil nature of the countryside, in sharp contrast to the flatter, smoother strokes of his urban paintings

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits, urban Paris, still life paintings

FAMOUS WORKS:

Les raboteurs de parquet (1875.)

Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877.)

Rue Halévy, From the 6th Floor (1878.)

Nude Lying on a Couch (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– in addition to painting, he had many other interests including stamp collecting, orchid growing, yacht building and even textile design

– he was also a patron of art and an art collector

1897. Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps by Pissaro

Camille Pissarro (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903)

PAINTING STYLE:

– The manner of painting was too sketchy and looked incomplete

– visible and expressive brushwork

– shadows painted in colour, rather than black or brown

– By the 1880s, Pissarro began to explore new themes and methods of painting – Neo-Impressionsm

– Pointillism (along with Seurat)

PAINTING SUBJECTS: mostly landscapes scenes, natural outdoor setting

FAMOUS WORKS:

Boulevard Montmartre la nuit (1898.)

La Place due Théâtre Français (1898.)

Boulevard Montmartre à Paris (1897.)

Un Carrefour à l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1876.)