Berthe Morisot, 1872
Édouard Manet (France, 1832–1883)
Image: 9 3/4 x 7 inches
Gift of James Russell Vaky 2002-1-1
Primarily known for his paintings, Édouard Manet was at the forefront of the movement to revive printmaking as an artistic medium in France. By the middle of the century, photography had begun to replace reproductive engraving and lithography, leaving print shops free to work with innovative young artists like Manet.
Manet first met Berthe Morisot in 1868 at the Musée du Louvre, where Morisot was copying a painting by Peter Paul Rubens. They formed an intense, lifelong relationship, and Morisot became one of the elder painter's favorite models. Since Manet was already married, he suggested that she wed his younger brother, Eugéne, which she did in 1874. Between 1872 and 1874, Manet based five prints on a single portrait of Morisot, including an etching in three states and a lithograph in two states—one in contour line and this one, which was not published during his lifetime.
When Morisot began posing for Manet in 1868, he was perhaps the most controversial and independent artist in Paris. He inspired her artistically and supported her goals to paint professionally. In turn, Morisot provided Manet with a link to younger artists, who regarded him as their intellectual leader. As a woman, Morisot felt deeply the gendered social restrictions that prevented her from participating in the intellectual exchanges of artists in the Paris cafés. While the male artists were free to paint the urban spectacle of modern Paris, as wife, mother, and daughter she had to pursue her work within the domestic world of family and friends to which women of her class were confined. Her favorite model was her daughter Julie, born in 1878, whom she showed making music, playing in the garden, sewing, and drawing throughout her childhood and early adolescence.
Text by Mary Peterson Zundo, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008