Morisot was a founding member of the Impressionist group and one of its most dedicated participants, contributing to all but one of the Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. Morisot is revered now, as in her own time, for her delicate lines, evocative brushwork and luminous sense of light. She is best known for her representations of modern women, picturing her subjects in lush gardens or elegant domestic spaces. Morisot’s paintings and drawings engage with the material realities of bourgeois Parisiennes, conveying their social rituals and interior lives with great subtlety.
No one represents Impressionism with more refined talent or with more authority than Morisot”
Morisot frequently depicted women with their children; her sisters, nieces, and her own daughter often served as her models. The present work represents the artist’s older sister, Yves Gobillard, with her daughter Paule. Yves reclines on a blue velvet chaise longue, her slippered feet dangling casually off the edge. She holds a single red blossom in one hand and her chin in the other, passively regarding her child. The pretty idleness of this work on paper recalls a similar watercolor of Morisot’s younger sister, Edma, with her daughter—now preserved at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The intimate scale of both sheets further underscores the maternal and sororal familiarity of both compositions.
In both Mme Gobillard et sa fille Paule and the National Gallery work, Morisot sketches her sisters at ease among conservative, French Empire style furnishings, while wearing modern springtime fashions. Here, Yves wears a fresh white morning gown with diaphanous sleeves and a ruffled hem. The square neckline and the black sash at her waist further articulate her figure. Morisot evoked the translucence of this white fabric with a sheer wash of watercolor, forming a material contrast with the rich velvet of the chair. Yves’s white day dress recalls that worn by Morisot in her own radically relaxed portrait, painted by Edouard Manet—her peer and future brother-in-law—a few years earlier, now in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum collection.
The present watercolor belonged to Yves’s youngest daughter, Jeannie Gobillard, who married the French poet Paul Valéry in 1900. This work has been included in some of the earliest and most iconic monographic exhibitions dedicated to the artist over the course of the 20th century: the Musée Jacquemart André (1961) installation in Paris and a traveling exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., The Kimbell Art Museum and Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (1987-1988).
Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).