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Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) A
French artist who
became the first female impressionist. She was the
grandaughter of a famous painter, Fragonard, and the
youngest of three sisters who were given lessons on
piano, sewing, and watercolors while young. The oldest
sister tired of art lessons but the younger two did not.
They found an art teacher, Joesph-Benoit Guichard,
who in a time when official art schools were closed to
women, expressed the following to their mother,
"Considering the character of your daughters my
teaching will not endow them with minor drawing room
accomplishments, they will beciome painters. Do you
realize what this means? In the upper class milieau to
which you belong, this will be revolutionary. I might
say almost catastrophic." Berthe's mother ignored the
warning. Berthe's daughter, the artist's sisters and
their families are the subject of two-thirds of the 350
paintings completed by the artist. She married the
younger brother of Edouard Manet.
As a wealthy woman, Morisot, as did many
of her class at the time, hired a wet nurse to tend
to her daughter. The wet nurse had to leave her
own child so that she could attend Julie, Morisot's
child, so that the painter might paint and pursue
Little Boy in Gray is a portrait of
the artist's cousin,
Marcel Gobillard. It was completed in 1880 and now
resides in a private collection.
Portrait of her by Eduoard Manet, 1872