Morisot Butterfly Hunt

Butterfly Hunt (La chasse aux papillons). Berthe Morisot. 1874. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Hide and seek (Cache-cache). Berthe Morisot. 1873. Collection of Mrs. John Hay Whitney, New York. This painting features Morisot's pregnant sister, Edma, with her daughter Jeanne.


It is important to express oneself . . . provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience. Berthe Morisot (1841-95)

Berthe Morisot (1841-95) is one of the two most important female painters of the late nineteenth century, the other being the better known Mary Cassatt. Born into a refined and affluent family, Morisot took lessons in drawing and painting as a young woman. She met parental opposition, however, when she chose to pursue the craft seriously rather than as a gentile pastime.

Berthe Morisot has wit to the tips of her fingers, especially at her fingertips. What fine artistic feeling! You cannot find more graceful images handled more deliberately and delicately than Berceau and Cache-cache. I would add that here the execution is in complete accord with the idea to be expressed.
[Jules-Antoine] Castagnary, Le Siecle, 29 April 1874

An oil painting, of a young mother playing hide-and-seek behind a cherry tree with her little girl, is a work that is perfect in the emotion of its observation, the freshness of its palette, and the composition of its background. [Philippe Burty], La Republique Francaise, 25 April 1874

Family members and friends served as her models. Butterfly Hunt (La chasse aux papillons) features her nieces and her sister, Edma. During the mid to late 19th Century, there were gender and class restrictions which dictated what subject matter was appropriate for a female painter. As a result, Morisot avoided nudes as well as urban scenes. However, her intimate exploration of domestic life was unusually daring for the time, as several paintings depict Edma pregnant.

The single most influential person to her personal and artistic life was Impressionist Édouard Manet. The exact nature of their alliance 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. Morisot, on the other hand, encouraged Manet to abandon the use of black and to utilize the brighter palette characteristic of the Impressionists. She also influenced him to practice plein-air painting.

Morisot's work did not gain significant recognition until well into the twentieth century.