Renegade: Berthe Morisot

Quick Announcement: If you are here for the Classical Conversations and the packets I create for tutoring, please be aware…I may not be a Foundations Tutor next year. It’s been an amazing five years, but I may be moving on to more Challenging things. If that happens, (and it might not,) I will not be invited to the Foundations FB group next year, but I WILL still make all the usual packets for Cycle 3. If you want to keep getting updates from me here at Drawing Demystified, consider following my facebook page. I post there first anyway. And now…

The Painter

Berthe Morisot was a proper young lady.

She was a revolutionary.

Morisot played by society’s rules, always dressed appropriately, and never went anywhere without being properly chaperoned.

She also allowed herself to pose (clothed, of course!) for some of the most cutting edged painters in Paris, staring defiantly into the viewer’s eyes. She painted herself. PROFESSIONALLY! She sold her paintings and EARNED HER OWN MONEY!

What WAS the world coming to?!

Today, it can be easy to overlook Morisot. Indeed, she died so much earlier than most of her contemporary Impressionist colleages, that she got lost in the group of names that eventually defined Impressionism: Degas. Monet. Renoir.

Morisot’s self-portrait with her daughter Julie. In some of her later works, Morisot experimented with leaving sections of the background canvas blank. While this work is unfinished, I love how you can clearly see how Morisot painted, with large, loose brushstrokes and bright, gleaming colors.

But she, and many of her contemporaries (some of them women!), are rising from the ashes of history, and several exhibitions showcasing her work have arisen in the past two decades. Her art is surging in popularity and, consequently, prices at the auction block.

Not bad for a woman who also fulfilled the roles of devoted daughter and sister, faithful wife, caring mother.

Morisot is considered one of the “Les Trois Grande Dames ” (The Three Great Ladies) of Impressionism. The other two are American Mary Cassatt and Frenchwoman Marie Bracquemond, but Morisot is the most well-known of the bunch.

The more I got to know her, the more I admired her: She broke boundaries while remaining respectful of the society she was born into. She never neglected her family and friends while remaining steadfast to her talents and art. She refused to give in to the fear of being a childless spinster and eventually found the man for her: one who supported her painting, while still providing for his new wife and eventually, family.

But like the stories of many women of her time, Berthe’s story is one intertwined with many other people: her parents who supported their daughters (Berthe had a sister who was just as accomplished as she) desires to do something unusual for girls of their class. Her neighbors, who happened to include many artists themselves who offered to teach her, since she was barred from art school. Her friends and colleagues, who encouraged her in many ways. Her in-laws, husband, and eventually, beloved daughter, who posed for her, offered feedback, and even helped arrange shows.

There’s much to admire about Berthe Morisot. I hope you like her as much as I grew to.

The project

That said, this project is rife with pitfalls.

Paint is a chemical compound which has been precisely mixed and balanced. It is made of pigments, which create the color of the paint, binder, which help the pigment particles stick to each other and the surface to be painted, and filler, which help the paint have structure if more structure is needed than the pigment itself provides.

Each paint, each color,each brand, will be slightly different in viscosity, pH, and permanence. Messing with these things can cause the paint to fail: it can fade, crack, fall off (or not adhere in the first place), or even eat itself and the surface it is attached to.

Which is why this “mix stuff into tempera paint until it thickens up” project is rife with potential problems. The goal appears to be this: take semi-liquid tempera paints and thicken them until they behave like the oil paints Morisot used–then paint with them like she did.

Honestly, you’re better off buying a set of Primary Color + white acrylic paints (which often have a similar feel to oil paints) and just painting in Morisot’s style with those. Those paints will have been properly mixed and will behave as they should.

If there is one module you download my attached Tutor notes, it’s this one. I’ve tried to find things to help make sure this project doesn’t turn into glue, grit, or acidic nightmares. It’s still fussy, and frankly, like I said, if it were me, I would just buy acrylic paint and not mess with the mess! But if we need to add fillers to the temperas, then there are better ways to go about it successfully than just throwing stuff in the paint and praying it works!

Enjoy Morisot!

C2W17 Berthe Morisot

C2W17 Tutor Notes Berthe Morisot