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A beautiful touch of femininity combined with the charming impressionist style makes this painting immediately recognisable as coming from the hand of Berthe Morisot. Woman at her Toilette arrived between the years of 1875-80 and is now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago in the US.
Artist Morisot incorporates light touches of the brush to produce almost a dreamy finish to the scene, where no single item contrasts with anything else too aggressively. The colour scheme is similarly softened, making use of complementary tones of lavender, pinks, blues and whites. The whole thing oozes femininity and is typical of the artist's overall career, as well as the secret to her success. The content continues along this theme, with brushed hair, cosmetic items and touches of flower petals for additional colours.
Woman at her Toilette would be exhibited at the fifth of the eight impressionist exhibitions and although Morisot's work would often receive critical praise, she wasn't always as successful at selling her work as some of the other members of the group. The likes of Manet, Renoir and Degas, for example, had achieved great success by focusing on the theme of female life in this way, but ironically, the female artist herself would then struggle to find buyers with her own related work. There may well have been a hidden bias against her because of her gender, but she was also up against some of the finest artists in French history too.
Thankfully, Morisot had a strong will and desire to continue whatever setbacks or changes in circumstances might throw at her. She continued as an artist even after marriage, for example, when tradition would normally have forced her to submit to the needs of the family. Such a strong character was essential for female artists during this period in order to achieve as much as they could, because of the barriers that were placed in front of their careers, sometimes even by members of their own family. Thankfully, the art scene is somewhat fairer in the modern day, though there still is work to be done in order to achieve complete equality across gender, race and class.