BERTHE MORISOT (1841-1895)
BERTHE MORISOT (1841-1895)
BERTHE MORISOT (1841-1895)
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BERTHE MORISOT (1841-1895)

Jeanne Fourmanoir sur le lac

BERTHE MORISOT (1841-1895)
Jeanne Fourmanoir sur le lac
signed 'Berthe Morisot' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 19 7⁄8 in. (61 x 50.5 cm.)
Painted in 1892
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (by 1902).
Mme Mottart, Paris; Estate sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 8 February 1945, lot 21.
Baron Louis de Chollet, Fribourg.
Lady Weir, London (by July 1982).
Galerie Hopkins Custot, Paris.
Acquired from the above by Arnold and Anne Ulnick Gumowitz, May 2002.
M.L. Bataille and G. Wildenstein, Berthe Morisot: Catalogue des peintures, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 1961, p. 44, no. 308 (illustrated, pl. 81).
A. Clairet, D. Montalant and Y. Rouart, Berthe Morisot: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1997, p. 266, no. 312 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Berthe Morisot, April-May 1902, no. 17.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Paysage d'eau-douce, 1945, no. 100.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections suisses, de Manet à Picasso, 1967, no. 42 (illustrated).
London, JPL Fine Arts, Berthe Morisot, November 1990-January 1991, no. 31 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

Berthe Morisot’s Jeanne Fourmanoir sur le lac was painted in 1892, a year of both professional highs and personal lows for the artist. In May to June of that year, Morisot earned her first solo retrospective exhibition at the esteemed gallery, Boussod, Valadon et Cie. in Paris—a significant accomplishment for this female Impressionist, who was largely overshadowed by her male colleagues on the contemporary art market. Just a month before the opening of the show, however, Morisot’s husband of nearly twenty years, Eugène Manet, died after a prolonged illness. Devastated and haunted by happy memories, Morisot left the home they had shared on 40 rue de Villejust and moved to a nearby apartment at 10 rue Weber. There, the widowed artist sought solace in her art, producing more than one hundred works in just three years.
Morisot’s new apartment was located even closer to the Bois de Boulogne, which she frequented throughout her life. During the Second Empire, when Morisot was a teenager, the densely-wooded royal hunting grounds were transformed into a 2000-acre public park. In the intervening decades, the Bois de Boulogne became both a runway and a site of recreation for bourgeois women and their children. In addition to winding walkways, a botanical garden, a zoo and an amusement park, the park boasted two manmade, concrete-lined lakes. There, one could rent a row boat to while away an afternoon, sampling the pleasures of nature in the middle of the city.
The lakes of the Bois de Boulogne had been a source of inspiration for Morisot’s art throughout the 1870s and 1880s, during the years of the Impressionist exhibitions in Paris. Her oeuvre contains a number of depictions of fashionable young women floating on row boats—see, for example, the National Gallery of London’s Le lac du bois de Boulogne (Jour d’été) (Clairet, no. 79), painted circa 1879, which focuses primarily on the figures and the dappled surface of the water. The present composition, painted more than a decade later, provides an even broader view of the cultivated landscape of the Bois de Boulogne: the lush green and gold foliage of the trees beyond the edge of the lake are alive with gestural, nearly abstract brushwork.
Beyond its setting of an urban park, the primary subject of this painting is Jeanne Fourmanoir, a professional model who posed for both Morisot and her friend, the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir in the 1890s. Jeanne appears, for example, as a cherry picker in Morisot’s iconic masterpiece of 1891, Le Cerisier (Clairet, no. 279), now in the collection of the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. Jeanne’s long, thick locks strongly resemble those of Morisot’s beloved daughter, Julie Manet, whose likeness appears in many of her mother’s earlier paintings. In this work, Fourmanoir is perched on one end of a simple wooden row boat—as if seated directly opposite the artist, with her brushes and canvas onboard.
Jeanne Fourmanoir sur le lac emphasizes the spontaneous rendezvous between Jeanne and a friendly, intrepid swan, who floats alongside the young woman’s rowboat. Birds appear frequently in Morisot’s lake scenes; as Alison Smyne observed of her work, “Waterfowl living in Paris became a recurring theme. Dozens of works, in oil, pastel, watercolor and drypoint depict ducks, geese, and swans—and humans and other species interacting with them—in the Bois de Boulogne, the transformation of which Morisot witnessed in her youth” ("Morisot's Urbane Ecologies" in A Companion for Impressionism, A. Dombrowski, ed., Hoboken, 2021, p. 382). Here, Morisot created an explicit formal comparisons between woman and swan: the bird’s curvilinear neck and delicate buoyancy echoes Jeanne’s graceful feminine figure, just as its pure white plumage echoes the color of her simple cotton dress.
In the 1890s, around the time this painting was executed, Morisot began to experiment with a new expressive style of painting. This work, for example, is softer and creamier in texture, compared to the sharper, more frenzied application of paint that characterized her earlier work. The result of this new style is dreamy and romantic, as hazy as a memory—befitting the nostalgic mood of the widowed artist in the final years of her life.

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