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Girl with a Cage is dated at 1885. Berthe Morisot produced here a stunning artwork which featured many of the signature elements of her artistic style. The artist would become a major player in the French Impressionist movement.
The composition features a young girl in the foreground who is dressed in a red jacket, with white dress underneath. Her hat is dominant within thw painting, placed centrally around her face and leaned back slightly. The wide brim provides a halo around her pretty face. The model has brown hair which just appears from below the hat, and she stares off to our right hand side. Behind her is a cage in which several birds would be found - perhaps she is giving them some much needed sunshine and fresh air, but without releasing them into the wild. She is therefore likely to be within the garden of her family home, and Morisot regularly used these locations for her work. The possibility to work outdoors but within environments that could be easily managed greatily appealed to her. On other occasions she would use parks instead, but these proved trickier for portraits that might be quite time consuming, perhaps even requiring several sittings.
The garden demands a large amount of green across the painting, with some slightly darker tones used for shadows, such as at the back of the scene. Much of the detail is expressive, creating a dream-like image which was entirely typical of the Impressionists. Much of what they delivered was an 'impression', rather than giving us a precise depiction that you would have seen with the work of the Realist artists. Emotion and expression were now key, but it took time for the Impressionists to be taken seriously, even the most impressive exponents such as Claude Monet. Morisot enjoyed support from the Salon as she built her career but felt restricted by their expectations and so was happy to join the forward-thinking group which became known as the Impressionists. She was joined here by several other women, with Mary Cassatt being the most famous of those.
Gardens and parks appeared many times within Morisot's career, besides just Girl with a Cage as displayed here. Other examples included Summer's Day, In the Garden at Maurecourt and A Woman and Child in a Garden. She regularly painted portraits of friends and family, often with mothers and children, and these were easier to organise within the family home. These offered truly intimate scenes which most male artists would have found it hard to access normally. She was therefore able to contribute something different, and this uniqueness would attract enough followers that her career took off and grew in strength over time. She would never look back, even though the Impressionists would rise and fall in success at different points as they continued to challenge academic norms of that period.