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Current Exhibition

Berthe Morisot:
Woman Impressionist

Until January 14, 2019

The exceptional path of a woman who defied the social norms of her time to join the Parisian avant-garde.
Berthe Morisot. Self-Portrait, 1885. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation. © Bridgeman

Adults $30; seniors $28; students $5; members free

About the Exhibition

Berthe Morisot (French, 1841–1895), one of the major impressionists, worked alongside Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This exhibition traces the exceptional path of a woman who defied the social norms of her time to join the Parisian avant-garde. 

Through her portrayal of the human figure, Morisot explored impressionist themes of modernity: the intimacy of contemporary bourgeois living and family life, the taste for resorts and gardens, the importance of fashion, and women’s domestic work. Deliberately sketchlike and unfinished in appearance, her works are not an unmediated reflection of her daily environment: they address the temporality of representation itself in a careful capture of the world that attempts to “fix something of the passing moment.”

Her Path and Process

This exhibition charts the course of Morisot's career in rough chronological order, taking cues from major themes in her work and life.

“Work is the sole purpose of my existence. . . . Indefinitely prolonged idleness would be fatal to me from every point of view.”
—Berthe Morisot, 1871

Becoming an Artist

From her early artistic training, Berthe Morisot showed a strong independence of mind. Instead of practicing art as a hobby, as upper-middle-class young women usually did, Morisot and her sister Edma hoped to be professional artists. They studied with the respected landscape painter Camille Corot and made their public debut at the Paris Salon of 1864. Unlike Edma, who gave up her professional ambitions after marriage, Morisot continued to pursue hers. 

She met the painter Édouard Manet in 1868 and began to forge ties with the Parisian avant-garde. In 1874, she joined a radical new artists' cooperative, becoming the only female artist to show in their first exhibition. Critics derisively dubbed the group the “impressionists” for their unpolished, seemingly unfinished work, but Morisot was undeterred. Some of the paintings she exhibited that year count among her most iconic.

Berthe Morisot. The Cradle (detail), 1872. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Painting Outdoors

In the 19th century, painters tended to make only studies and sketches outdoors, or en plein air, not finished pictures. Morisot and the impressionists defied this convention and exhibited works painted largely outdoors to convey the fleeting effects of light and weather.

Berthe Morisot. Reading (detail), 1873. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of the Hanna Fund

Fashion and the Modern Woman

A stylish woman herself, Morisot became the quintessential painter of contemporary women, especially the figure known as the Parisienne. A chic, urban sophisticate, the Parisienne came to symbolize modern life in the French capital.

Berthe Morisot. Winter, 1880. Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of the Meadows Foundation, 1981. Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
Berthe Morisot. Woman at Her Toilette, 1875–1880. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

Finished / Unfinished

During the 1880s, Morisot’s brushwork became increasingly free, with loose, rapid strokes accentuating the flat surface of the canvas. In works with a deliberately unfinished appearance, she used impressionist landscape techniques to depict portraits and figures.

Berthe Morisot. Portrait of Miss L.[ambert] (detail), 1885. Private collection

Women at Work

Working women are a recurring subject in Morisot’s painting. The cooks, maids, and servants employed by upper-middle-class households in the late 19th century were as much a part of Morisot’s daily life as her family and friends.

In an 1885 self-portrait, Morisot depicted herself as a working artist, a status that depended on the women who helped run her household.

Berthe Morisot. Self-Portrait, 1885. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation. © Bridgeman

Threshold Spaces

Morisot was fascinated by in-between spaces—verandas, balconies, and other transitional areas of domestic interiors. The window in particular, as a long-established symbol in western art, enabled her to blend two distinct genres: interior scenes and outdoor painting. These fusions of inside and outside allowed Morisot to explore the subtle relationships between private and public spaces.

Berthe Morisot. In England, 1875. Musée Marmottan Monet, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation. Photo by Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
Berthe Morisot. Cottage Interior, 1886. Musée d’Ixelles, Gift of Fritz Toussaint. Photo courtesy Collection Musée d’Ixelles

A Studio of One's Own

For most of her career, Morisot did not have her own studio. When she wasn't working outdoors, she generally painted in her bedroom or drawing room. She would clear away her easels and brushes to make space for the rituals of daily life.

After her husband, Eugène Manet, died in 1892, Morisot moved to an apartment, where she converted the servant quarters into a studio. However, she continued to work in the domestic spaces of her home, depicting her daughter and nieces playing music, painting, or drawing in the apartment.

Characterized by a new expressiveness, Morisot’s late work reveals an awareness of the emerging symbolist movement.

Berthe Morisot. Portrait of Miss J.[ulie] M.[anet] (Julie Dreaming), 1894. Private collection. Photo Galerie Hopkins, Paris

“I am approaching the end of my life, and yet I am still a mere beginner.”
—Berthe Morisot, 1890

Exhibition Organization

Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist is organized by the Barnes Foundation, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie.

This exhibition will be the first dedicated presentation of Morisot’s work to be held in the US since 1987, the very first solo exhibition of her work to be mounted in Canada, and the first time since 1941 that a French national museum will devote a monographic show to this important painter.

The exhibition is co-curated by Sylvie Patry, deputy director for curatorial affairs and collections at the Musée d'Orsay and consulting curator at the Barnes Foundation, and Nicole R. Myers, the Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Barnes's presentation of Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist was managed by Cindy Kang, associate curator at the Barnes Foundation.


Denise Littlefield Sobel

Aileen and Brian Roberts

Maribeth and Steven Lerner

Bruce and Robbi Toll

Support for the exhibition comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund

Joan Carter and John Aglialoro, Julia and David Fleischner, Leigh and John Middleton, Jeanette and Joe Neubauer, Aileen and Brian Roberts

John Alchin and Hal Marryatt, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, Lois and Julian Brodsky, N. Judith Broudy, Laura and Bill Buck, Joan Carter and John Aglialoro, Dan and Monica DiLella, Gloria and John Drosdick, Eugene and Michelle Dubay, Lisa D. Kabnick and John H. McFadden, Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, Victoria McNeil Le Vine, Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Kay and Michael Park, Adele Schaeffer, Katie and Tony Schaeffer, Joan F. Thalheimer, van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Kirsten White, A. Morris Williams, Jr., Michele Plante and Robert N. Wilson, Anonymous

With generous support from the Philanthropy Circle Donors:

Laura and Bill Buck, Gretchen H. Burke, Dietz Family Foundation, FS Foundation, Joan L. Garde, Anne and Matt Hamilton, Penelope P. Harris, Lynne and Harold Honickman, Patricia H. Imbesi, Jane and Leonard Korman, Susan Martinelli Shea, Hilarie and Mitchell Morgan, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman, Anne and Bruce Robinson, Richard and Marsha Rothman, Adele K. Schaeffer, Hank and June Smith

Additional funding from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, and The Rittenhouse Hotel.

The catalogue is made possible with generous support provided by the Lois and Julian Brodsky Publications Fund. 

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition Catalogue

Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist


Lush illustrations of Morisot's paintings reveal her daring technical experimentations and her embrace of subjects drawn from everyday life. Essays consider the artist in the context of her contemporaries, the critical reception of her work, her modern subjects and settings, and the state of Morisot scholarship today.

Related Programs

Barnes Takeover: Ursula Rucker
Thursday, October 11, 8 – 10pm
In honor of Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist, we’ve invited local women in the arts to respond to the Barnes collection, offering new perspectives on the works. For our first Barnes Takeover, poetry powerhouse Ursula Rucker curates a powerful, unforgettable evening of spoken word, music, sound, story, and imagery.

Lecture Series: Leslie Bowen, On Being a Woman Artist
Saturday, October 13, 11:30am – 12:30pm
$10; members and students free
In a special lecture inspired by the life of Berthe Morisot, painter and Barnes instructor Leslie Bowen will explore the challenges she has encountered as a woman artist over the course of her long career.

Fashion and Feminism: A Symposium Inspired by Berthe Morisot
Saturday, October 20, 1 – 5pm
$30; members $15; students free
Join us for a day of lively discussion about the ways fashion has been deployed to make powerful political statements—in paintings, on the runway, and in everyday life.

Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist Special Exhibition Tour
Wednesday, October 24, to Monday, January 14
1pm and 2pm 
$45; members $22
This in-depth hour-long exhibition tour takes a closer look at Morisot's iconic works and pioneering role in the impressionist movement.

Lecture Series: Anne Higonnet, Berthe Morisot and the Painting of Modern Life
Saturday, November 17, 11:30am – 12:30pm
$10; members and students free
Learn more about the life and work of impressionist painter Berthe Morisot in this lecture by Barnard College professor Anne Higonnet.

Barnes Takeover: The Gorgeousity
Saturday, November 17, 8 – 10pm
The Gorgeousity is a playfully immersive musical, created on the spot for guests. Artist performances begin on a stage in the Annenberg Court and continue throughout the collection galleries. Designed to evoke feelings of connection and joy, The Gorgeousity treats audience members as true collaborators, seamlessly integrating them into the collective ensemble.

In Focus Gallery Talk: Morisot's Self-Portrait
Monday, November 19, 2 – 2:30pm
Free with admission
Ramey Mize, a doctoral candidate in the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead an in-depth discussion about Berthe Morisot’s Self-Portrait in the special exhibition gallery.

PECO Free First Sunday Family Day: She Creates
Sunday, December 2, 10am – 5pm
A fun-filled afternoon featuring storytellers, musicians, dancers, and other creatives who bring their craft, skill, and passion to the Barnes. And oh—these artists all happen to be women.

In Focus Gallery Talk: Morisot's The Artist's Sister at a Window
Monday, December 3, 2 – 2:30pm
Free with admission
Z. Serena Qiu, a doctoral candidate in the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead an in-depth discussion about Berthe Morisot’s The Artist’s Sister at a Window (Portrait of Mme Pontillon) in the special exhibition gallery.