Berthe Morisot’s Early Life and Education

Morisot was born in Bourges, France, into an affluent bourgeois family. Her father, Edmé Tiburce Morisot, was the prefect of the department of Cher. He also studied architecture at École des Beaux Arts. Her mother, Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie Thomas, was the great-niece of Jean-Honoré Fragonard, one of the most prolific Rococo painters of the ancien régime. She had two older sisters, Yves and Edma, plus a younger brother, Tiburce. The family moved to Paris in 1852, when Morisot was a child.

It was commonplace for daughters of bourgeois families to receive art education, so Berthe and her sisters Yves and Edma were taught privately by Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne and Joseph Guichard. Morisot and her sisters initially started taking lessons so that they could each make a drawing for their father for his birthday. In 1857 Guichard, who ran a school for girls in Rue des Moulins, introduced Berthe and Edma to the Louvre gallery where from 1858 they learned by copying paintings. The Morisots were not only forbidden to work at the museum unchaperoned, but they were also totally barred from formal training. Guichard also introduced them to the works of Gavarni.

As art students, Berthe and Edma worked closely together until 1869, when Edma married Adolphe Pontillon, a naval officer, moved to Cherbourg, and had less time to paint. Letters between the sisters show a loving relationship, underscored by Berthe’s regret at the distance between them and Edma’s withdrawal from painting. Edma wholeheartedly supported Berthe’s continued work and their families always remained close. Edma wrote:

“… I am often with you in thought, dear Berthe. I’m in your studio and I like to slip away, if only for a quarter of an hour, to breathe that atmosphere that we shared for many years…”

Her sister Yves married Theodore Gobillard, a tax inspector, in 1866 and was painted by Edgar Degas as Mrs Theodore Gobillard.

As a copyist at the Louvre, Morisot met and befriended other artists such as Manet and Monet. In 1861 she was introduced to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the pivotal landscape painter of the Barbizon school who also excelled in figure painting. Under Corot’s influence she took up the plein air method of working. By 1863 she was studying under Achille Oudinot, another Barbizon painter. In the winter of 1863–64 she studied sculpture under Aimé Millet, but none of her sculpture is known to survive.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, July 29). Berthe Morisot. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:32, October 13, 2020.

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