At Your Leisure, Madame – With Berthe Morisot

July 29th, 2014 | posted by Deborah Choate

Girl in a Green Coat by Berthe Morisot

Natural, contemporary, spectacular, and radical. The amount of new artistic talent and influence of 19th Century French Impressionism is nearly indescribable, almost unbelievable. Breaking from religious and static scenes, French impressionists sought to capture the unaffected, ephemeral, fleeting effects of Parisian bourgeoisie leisure life. These artists broke from academic practice and from tradition of exhibiting at the public Salon; these artists turned exclusive. Seemingly dominated by a group of exclusive male painters, such as Monet and Degas, few female artists were able to break into the close-knit circle of the impressionist exhibitions.

However, Berthe Morisot portrayed talent and value worthy of active participation and acceptance into the Impressionist world. Unlike her contemporaries who consistently portrayed bourgeois landscape scenes painted en plein air, Morisot’s career was dominated by interior and domestic views of elite Parisian woman. By representing the private world of her own social class, Morisot granted viewers access to the intimate and secluded world of elite Victorian era women.

Morisot’s Girl in a Green Coat shows us exactly that. The featured woman, Morisot’s young Russian neighbor Marthe, is elegant, refined, and reserved. Though intimately painted, the young woman dominates the large oil painting. Her sophisticated, polished green verdant coat pops against Morisot’s signature soft, shy colors. Her elite social class is clear amidst the sketchy, exceptional brushwork. Set in the interior of Morisot’s apartment on Rue Weber, she is a perfect portrayal of the choice domestic woman.

With the study for this exact work in the Lehman Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is certain how precious and respected the work of Berthe Morisot is today. She nearly dominated the field of Impressionism, towering above many others in her permanent importance and everlasting significance. In the explosion of French Impressionism, Morisot was able to successfully forge her way into extreme popularity, admiration, and esteem.

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