Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Schoneman
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

Etude au bord de l'eau

Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Etude au bord de l'eau
signed 'B. Morisot' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 28 7/8 in. (60 x 73.4 cm.)
Painted in 1864
Anon. sale, Galerie Druet, Paris, 2 March 1939, lot 159.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owners, circa 1970.
M. Angoulvent, Berthe Morisot, Paris, 1933, no. 7.
M.-L. Bataille and G. Wildenstein, Berthe Morisot: Catalogue des peintures, pastels, et aquarelles, Paris, 1961, p. 23, no. 8 (illustrated, fig. 86).
S. Lindsay, "Berthe Morisot and the Poets: The Visual Language of Women," Helicon Nine, Summer 1988, p. 9 (illustrated in color).
A. Clairet, D. Montalant and Y. Rouart, Berthe Morisot: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Montolivet, 1997, p. 115, no. 8 (illustrated).
Paris, Salon, Ministère de la Maison de l'Empereur et des Beaux-Arts, Surintendance des Beaux-Arts, May 1865, no. 1551.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Vincent van gogh en zijn Tijdgenooten, September-October 1930.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum and South Hadley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Berthe Morisot: Impressionist, September 1987-May 1988, p. 217, no. 7 (illustrated in color, p. 23, pl. 1).

Lot Essay

The present lot is one of the earliest known paintings by Morisot. Born in 1841 to a bourgeois family and later living on the outskirts of Paris, Morisot began her artistic training at an exceptionally young age. Since the venerable Ecole des Beaux-Arts would remain closed to women until after Morisot's death, in 1895, the family sought out private instruction. Initially, Berthe and her two sisters were taught by Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne, a devotee of the Neoclassical style of Ingres. When tired of Chocarne, the sisters continued their training with Joseph Guichard. Guichard had studied with Ingres but subsequently renounced Classicism in favor of Delacroix's dramatic romanticism. Guichard proved a passionate instructor and forewarned Berthe's parents of the talents he perceived in their children:

Given your daughters' natural gifts, it will not be petty drawing-room talents that my instruction will achieve; they will become painters. Are you fully aware of what that means? It will be revolutionary--I would almost say catastrophic--in your high bourgeois milieu. Are you sure that you will never one day curse the art, once allowed into this household, now so respectably peaceful, that will become the sole master of the fate of two of your children? (quoted in Berthe Morisot: Impressionist, exh. cat., op. cit., p. 18).

By the late 1850s, the girls were copying works in the Louvre. Soon thereafter, after requesting to study plein-air painting, Guichard referred them to a new instructor, Achille Oudinot, a friend and disciple of the artists Camille Corot and Charles Daubigny. It was Corot's influence that would prove instructive and ultimately overwhelming. Berthe and her sister Edma became friendly with Corot, who also provided them with works of his own for them to copy. Berthe, however, would soon despair of her imitativeness, and later destroyed the majority of her works from the 1860s as a result.

Fortunately, the present lot was salvaged; Etude au bord de l'eau is Morisot's earliest exhibited figure painting, as it was included in the Salon of 1865. Morisot was considered exceptionally accomplished for successfully representing the technically challenging subject of figures in an outdoor setting (since portraits at this time were typically never executed en plein-air). It is also the only known iteration of this theme in the sister's works from the 1860s. As Charles Stuckey has observed: "Morisot kept the pose and gestures as simple as possible, but several details in Etude au bord de l'eau foreshadow characteristics of her later works: the pinpoints of color in the foreground suggest flowers, the careful attention to the distant view, and, most of all, the delicate interplay of white on white, here between fabric and flesh" (ibid., p. 21). In a poetic twist of fate, Morisot's peaceful Etude au bord de l'eau would be exhibited on the same wall as the most electric figurative painting of 1865, Manet's Olympia, anticipating the artists' later connection.

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