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Berthe Morisot, the Forgotten Pioneer of Impressionist Painting

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

Manet, Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Morisot. You’ve likely not heard of that last one, but Berthe Morisot was one of the founding members of painting’s Impressionist movement and because of a new retrospective exhibition, she’s finally getting her due. Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist is a collaboration among five museums from around the world and is currently on display at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (though only until January 14). Peter Schjeldahl’s review for the New Yorker calls Morisot “the most interesting artist of her generation”.

About half of the sixty-eight paintings in the show remain in private collections. But, aside from a few partial failures that instructively exemplify risks Morisot took, they are all more than museum-worthy. Morisot is still emerging from the margins of the Impressionist club of certified alphas, betas, and minions, but the priority for valuing her work is not just the issuing of retroactive membership. It’s re-seeing and rethinking the whole history of modern art from the perspective of women who never stood a chance of major attainment. In a different world, Morisot would be the doyenne of an established tradition that built and expanded on her example.

If you miss the show at the Barnes, the exhibition will be touring the other supporting museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art (Feb 24 - May 26, 2019) and the Musée d’Orsay (June 18, Sept 22, 2019).