I remember the day I fell in love with Berthe Morisot. It was in Grade 10. We had a new art teacher because the old one (one of my favourite people, who later became my mentor) had gone off the deep end and had to take a little break from teaching. I was mightily ticked off by the whole situation; even if the new art teacher had been a good one, I wouldn’t have admitted it. (The next art teacher was a good one, but I pretended I didn’t like him either.)
The new art teacher even had us use a text book. A text book. For art? Yep. E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. The new teacher even had us start at the beginning of the text book and work our way through it in chronological order.
On page 407 of The Story of Art is an image of Manet’s The Balcony. Berthe Morisot is the seated woman. When I discovered she was a real person – Manet’s sister-in-law – I started researching. Not only was she astoundingly beautiful, she was an Impressionist; I loved her for her audacity to stand up to art snobs and sexists, alike. I loved her paintings. I loved the group of people she hung out with. I wanted to be Berthe Morisot.
Morisot is still one of my ideals. She reminds me of Virginia Woolf. Woolf provides me with a mirror for the dichotomy of my life, and Morisot brings light to the dark places.
My favourite Morisot painting is The Butterfly Hunt. The tree in the top right-hand corner is the best thing ever painted.