Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets Edouard Manet Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Edouard Manet was born in the year 1832 in Paris. He was part of a well-connected and wealthy family. His mother was the daughter of a diplomat and father was a French judge.

Edouard Manet painted Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets, 1872. The oil on canvas painting of Morisot, which is, signed “Manet 72” in the upper right corner shows how Manet chose to light his model from the side so that her face seems to be all light and shadow. She is dressed all in black with a matching hat enhancing her remarkable beauty. Black ribbons and scarves surround her face. She has an earring in each ear. The violet flowers are barely noticeable where the neckline of her dress lowers towards her chest. Berthe’s gaze is quite intense. Manet references the face of Berthe looking directly at the viewer with a slight amusement. Her head comes out from the flatness of the black areas, which contrast with the light background.

Surprisingly for one of Manet's portraits, which are usually, distinguish an even light Morisot is lit only from one side. This makes very little difference to the balance. The controlling features are her powerful eyes. Many observers seem to believe in this portrait it expresses the growing love between Manet and Morisot. The dark costume and eyes may hint to Monet’s belief that she looked Spanish. He had earlier painted a portrait that resembled one of his own mothers in mourning in 1863. However in the painting Berthe Morisot with a Fan, 1872 she covers her face indicating that real affection with the artist was prohibited. Monet sometimes lightened his colors but not while painting Morisot.

Manet adored Bethe Morisot’s painting and enjoyed a friendship with her. Art collector and critic Theodore Duret 1838-1927 acquired the painting. In 1894 Morisot bought the painting and on her death, in 1895 she left it to her daughter Julie where it remained with her until her own death in 1966. It was acquired for the Musee D’Orsay in 1998. His father expected him to pursue his career in the niche of law. It was his uncle Edmond who supported the painter for the skills that he had in painting and took him to Louvre. He was first in secondary school and then later joined a special course in drawing. It was during this time that he met Antonin Proust who later became minister of fine arts. He was also Manet’s friend for the whole life.

His father then asked him to try out in the Navy and he failed in the examination twice, which made him later accept Manets will in continuing art education. He learned painting under Thomas Couture who was an academic painter from 1850-1856. During his spare time, he tried copying the works of Masters. He had so many amazing friends who were painters. It was in the year 1856 that he opened a studio. He tried following realism, which was the kind of painting initiated by French painter Gustave Courbet. It was under this influence that made him create the paintings like people inside cafes, bullfights, and singers, Gypsies etc.

Music in the Tuileries is the painting which is a great example of the style of painting of Manet. He painted this out of the influence from Velazquez and Hals. This is the picture which is regarded an incomplete one by many people. This is the painting in which he depicted authors, musicians, artists, and friends who are part of it. He also included the self-portrait in it. This is the early work that got so much of importance. Paris Salon didn’t allow this painting to be exhibited in the year 1863. It was then exhibited in Salon des Refuses.

Edouard Manet is recognized by a vast number of art historians to be the founding father of modernism. His paintings are extraordinary for their easy brushstrokes, distinct colors, sense of light, simplification of details and the suppression of transitional tones. He followed the trend for a long time café scenes, social activities, active urban life, and above all the female nudes: these were the subjects that occupied Manet’s canvases. Keeping the nude figure in the center of the canvas, Manet has added major attraction for his artwork. The yellow color peeping from beneath the light red pack's much sensuality in the painting, the hair strands resting on the back of the nude female model. These were the features he composed on canvases, highlighting the most sensual part of the nude female body.

Whether it is the portrait of Berthe Morisot or L’Inconnue, Monet had used the positioning of the eyes of the model very crucially, adding much value to the meaning of the painting. The Franco-Prussian war affected Manet where he remained in Paris serving in the grade nationale and was incapable of painting. Approaching the end of 1871 he resumed his work taking up his previous models including Berthe Morisot, a young painter whom he became close friends. See also further classic artworks from Manet, including A Bar at the Folies Bergeres and Olympia.