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The mother and the sister of the artist reading. Berthe Morisot. 1969. National Gallery of Art, Washington.
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MOTHER AND THE SISTER OF THE ARTIST READING (BERTHE MORISOT)

In 1869 the Salon was considering Portrait of mother and the sister of the artist reading for exhibition. At Morisot's invitation, Édouard Manet came to give her feedback on the piece. The day he came coincided with the day that she had arranged for the Salon to pick it up. The text below is from a letter she wrote to her sister Edma concerning what happened that day.

 

'Tomorrow, after I have sent off my pictures, I shall come to see yours, and you may put yourself in my hands. I shall tell you what needs to be done.' The next day ... he came at about one o'clock; he found it very good, except for the lower part of the dress. He took the brushes and put in a few accents that looked very well. ... That is where my misfortunes began. Once started, nothing could stop him; from the skirt he went to the bust, from the bust to the head, from the head to the background. He cracked a thousand jokes, laughed like a madman, handed me the palette, took it back; finally by five o'clock in the afternoon we had made the prettiest caricature that was ever seen. The carter was waiting to take it away; he made me put it on the hand-cart. ... And now I am left confounded. My only hope is that I shall be rejected. My mother thinks this episode funny, but I find it agonizing.*

NOTES
*The source for this quote is Unmasking Manet's Morisot, Marni R. Kessler, Art Bulletin, September 1999. The painting depicts Morisot's sister, Edma Pontillon, in the last stages of her first pregnancy.

 

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