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The cradle. Berthe Morisot. 1872. Musée D'Orsay, Paris.
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THE CRADLE (BERTHE MORISOT)

To live is to be slowly born.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-44), writer and pilot

The Cradle is the most highly regarded and best known painting of French Impressionist Berthe Morisot. Because Morisot was born into a refined 19th Century family, she faced many obstacles to the pursuit of her art. Parental opposition along with gender and class prohibitions strongly dictated what activities were appropriate for her as both an artist and a woman. Yet despite the limitations of her world, Morisot's intimate exploration of domestic life was unusually daring, as several paintings depict Edma pregnant.

The single most influential person to her development as an artist was Impressionist Édouard Manet. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear and continues to intrigue art historians. It is known that he helped her develop her style. Additionally, he introduced her to his brother Eugene whom she later married. The influence was reciprocal. Morisot encouraged Manet to abandon the use of black and to utilize the brighter palette characteristic of the Impressionists. She also persuaded him to practice plein-air painting.

After her marriage to Eugene Manet, she continued to work, producing over 350 artistic works during their eighteen year marriage. This dedication to her art is difficult to understand through a contemporary lens but it was nothing short of extraordinary for a female artist in her era.

Morisot died suddenly during the flu pandemic of 1895. Her work did not gain wide spread recognition until well into the twentieth century.

NOTES

The Cradle features Morisot's sister, Edma, with her infant daughter.

 

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