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Berthe Morisot is one of the most famous female artists in history and much of her work focused on the lives of women in French society. Hanging the Laundry out to Dry continues that very theme and was completed in 1875.
Whilst portraying domestic scenes in most of her paintings, Morisot in this example manages to provide a stunning landscape backdrop to the main focus in the foreground. Women are hard at work putting out the washing on a windy day in the countyside. In the background we see several steam trains coming past as well as a cloudy but light sky. A large single house stands alone, suggesting that a wealthy family live there and perhaps employ a number of workers to help out with the daily chores. The property itself plus extended grounds covers a large swathe of land in a picturesque setting. Perhaps it was a fellow family member of the Morisots who lived there, or perhaps another close acquaintance.
A line of trees crosses the background, suggesting the boundaries of the property, whilst a small set of railings does the same in the near foreground. Clothing is hung off almost everything conceivable object in the garden, as the workers appear to have more washing to dry than can be managed by their existing set up of washing lines. The impressionist style of Morisot makes some elements of this scene hard to decipher, with almost an abstract or expressionist approach where detail is kept to a minimum. We essentially have an impression of the view, as presented by the artist, rather than a precise reproduction as per the earlier realist artists. This new approach took time to gain favour but is well established today, and also much loved by the public.
Hanging the Laundry out to Dry was well received by French art critics upon its first unveiling. The use of light and colour were particularly praised and it was clear that Morisot was becoming an important part of the Impressionist movement. Her gender was starting to be forgotten and any barriers to her success were fading fast. That said, she still struggled to actually sell many of her paintings, even though so many were acclaimed by fellow artists.