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This brisk artwork from 1884 captures a stunning scene in late 19th century France and perfectly captures the type of content found in the oeuvre of Impressionist painter, Berthe Morisot.
Morisot was a rare commodity - a member of the Impressionist movement who received critical praise throughout her career. As a woman, her achievements were all the more remarkable. Morisot brought to life the mother and child bond, just as Cassatt would do, but she also focused on the social lives of the middle and upper classes at that time. Here she captures a mother with her dauhter whilst out rowing through a quiet lake. They are joined by some beautiful swans who set the mood of elegance, and several smaller birds are dotted about behind. We see a bank in the far distance which helps us to layout the scene in our minds, with the artist probably working from the opposing side of the bank on the near side. The brushwork appears to have been quickly applied, with long thick strokes of paint that have not been smoothed over.
The mother is dressed with a large summer hat which droops over her forehead. She wears the thick dresses that were typical of th period and sits on the raised edge of this small boat. Her daughter is in a lighter tone, and receives touches of white paint from the artist which suggest at bright light coming through from above. The rowing boat is created with relatively few strokes of paint, and just the odd darker touch which lays out its design. Holders for the rows can be seen here, and the contours of the boat's shape can be approximated. Behind them is a lake which is filled with tones of blue, white and green, with reflections coming from the surrounding trees and bushes. A slight shadow is incorporated along the right hand side with a much darker region of paint which suggests the impact of over hanging trees which are slightly off the canvas.
On the Lake in the Bois de Boulogne is just one of many scenes produced by Morisot which capture women within parks or by lakes. Other examples from her career include the likes of Young Girls at the Window, Girl in a Boat, with Geese and also In a Park. She perfectly captured the lives of middle class women in France at that time, reflecting mostly the positive aspects of what they would experience every day. This was an important contribution which reminded the art world that other topics could be covered successfully, and that the tried and tested genres seen in previous centuries were not the only options available. In order to achieve outdoor depictions accurately, the artist quickly learnt how to work within that setting, which brought particular challenges, just as working with children and animals would do.