Major Traveling Exhibition Highlights the Role of Berthe Morisot as a Leading Impressionist
Berthe Morisot, Woman in Grey Reclining (1879).(Photo by Christian Baraja, courtesy of a private collection.)
This fall, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia will present the US debut of a landmark exhibition exploring the significant yet under recognized contributions of Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), one of the founders of impressionism. The first monographic exhibition of the artist to be held in the US since 1987, Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist provides new insight into a defining chapter in art history and the opportunity to experience Morisot’s work in context of the Barnes’s unparalleled collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings.
The internationally touring exhibition is co-organized by the Barnes Foundation, Dallas Museum of Art, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris. It will be on view at the Barnes from October 21, 2018, through January 14, 2019, before heading to Dallas.
Berthe Morisot, In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight) (1875).Courtesy of the Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet, Fondation Denis et Annie Rouart, Photo by Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.
Berthe Morisot was celebrated in her time as a leader of the movement, and her innovative works were coveted by dealers and collectors alike. Despite her accomplishments, today she is not as well-known as her impressionist colleagues, a group that includes Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Co-curated by Sylvie Patry, Consulting Curator at the Barnes Foundation and Chief Curator/Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Collections at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art, Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist will both illuminate and reassert Morisot’s role as an essential figure within the impressionist movement and the development of modern art in Paris in the second half of the 19th century.
“We look forward to fleshing out the story of impressionism represented in our holdings with the presentation of this groundbreaking exhibition,” says Thom Collins, executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation. “This international collaboration introduces important new scholarship that contributes to a more complete understanding of impressionism and Berthe Morisot as a revolutionary figure within the movement.”
Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist focuses on the artist’s figure paintings and portraits, with approximately 70 paintings from public and private collections on view. The exhibition traces the exceptional path of a female painter who, in opposition to the norms of her time and social background, became an important member of the Parisian avant-garde from the late 1860s until her death in 1895. Through her portrayal of the human figure, Morisot was able to explore the themes of modern life that came to define impressionism, such as the intimacy of contemporary bourgeois living and leisure activities, the importance of fashion and the toilette, and women’s domestic work, all while blurring the lines between interior and exterior, public and private, finished and unfinished.
“Though Berthe Morisot held an important place at the heart of the impressionist movement, she has historically enjoyed far less acclaim than her male counterparts,” says Patry. “Through this landmark exhibition, together with colleagues at our partner museums around the world, we are thrilled to bring renewed international attention to the significant work of Morisot.”
Berthe Morisot, The Cradle (1872).Courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, Paris. ©Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais Patrice Schmidt.
Organized semi-chronologically, the exhibition will examine Morisot’s painterly innovations and fundamental position within impressionism across the arc of her productive yet relatively short life. The exhibition explores the following periods and themes of Morisot’s work:
Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist is organized by the Barnes Foundation, Dallas Museum of Art, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris. The exhibition is co-curated by Sylvie Patry, Consulting Curator at the Barnes Foundation and Chief Curator/Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Collections at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that emphasizes the importance of understanding Morisot’s work in light of her dialogue with contemporary artistic movements—impressionism, but also post-impressionism and symbolism. Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist makes an important contribution to the field, with interdisciplinary scholarship and a specific focus on Morisot’s pioneering developments as a painter first, woman second. An English- and French-language catalogue will be co-published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. and the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, in association with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. A separate French-language catalogue will be published by the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The book contains essays by Morisot scholars including the exhibition co-curators Sylvie Patry and Nicole R. Myers; Cindy Kang, Barnes Foundation; Marianne Mathieu, Musée Marmottan Monet; and Bill Scott, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as a chronology by Amy Wojciechowski with additional research by Monique Nonne (hardcover, $55).
Louis C. Tiffany, Angel of Resurrection (1899; 90 x 37 inches) photo: Diane Rousseau / Worcester Art Museum
Worcester Art Museum (WAM), in Massachusetts, has on view an exhibition of stained glass works created by Louis C. Tiffany and John La Farge that have not been on view for more than 40 years. Originally commissioned for Boston’s Mount Vernon Congregational Church in the late 1890’s, the large stained glass works were donated to WAM in 1975 when the church vacated its building. On view to summer 2019, Radiance Rediscovered: Stained Glass by Tiffany and La Farge opened with the windows by Tiffany installed in the Contemporary Gallery. The panels by La Farge, which require additional restoration, go on view in the same space as the Tiffany windows in late September 2018. This exhibition is the first of three pre-contemporary American art projects supported by major funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.
"The Pool At Bethesda: The Angel Troubling The Water," John La Farge, 1898, watercolor with graphite on cream Japanese vellum paper, 13 5/8 x 5 1/4", Worcester Art Museum. Wikimedia Commons
The Tiffany windows, titled Angel of Resurrection (1899; 90 x 37 inches), show an angelic figure among a field of lilies. The La Farge panels, titled The Pool at Bethesda(1898; 133 3/8 x 31 7/8 inches), depict a scene from the New Testament, in which an angel of God stirs the healing waters of the pool at Bethesda. The windows are remnants of the American Gilded Age, an era that saw rapid economic growth and development—and a boom in church construction that also brought along a resurgence of interest in stained glass for its beauty and power in conveying narrative. Both sets of panels are undergoing extensive conservation work, to clean the glass and ensure the stability of their mountings, so that new audiences can experience the intricacies and vibrancy of their designs.
As part of the exhibition, the museum also features other works that highlight the artists’ creative visions and techniques, as well as their aesthetic influences, from paintings and works on paper to Favrile glass. Among these works is La Farge’s experimental Peacock Window (1892–1908)—another work in WAM’s collections—which simulates the vibrant coloration of the magnificent, exotic bird, and is the last example of La Farge working with the challenging process of cloisonné glass.
“The Museum’s American art collection is one of its strengths, and this is particularly so because many of these works connect directly to the history of New England,” said Matthias Waschek, C. Jean and Myles McDonough Director of the Worcester Art Museum. “In this case, it is a great pleasure to be able to present such fine examples of stained glass by its two American master artists, Tiffany and La Farge, and to explore new ways of sharing them with the public. We are tremendously grateful to the Luce Foundation for their support for this important project, and to guest curator Amanda Lett.”
The windows came to the Museum from what had been Mount Vernon Congregational Church in Boston. A thriving congregation in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, the Church bought its building in 1891 and quickly sought out to create new stained glass windows that would create a beautiful atmosphere for worshippers, and also speak to the spiritual and material strength of the community. Both Tiffany Glass and Decoration Company and John La Farge’s studio—the two leading stained glass artists of the age— were commissioned to create windows for the building.
As attendance at the Church began to dwindle in the 1970s, the congregation merged with another nearby church, leaving behind its building. Recognizing their importance, the congregation donated the Tiffany and La Farge windows to the Worcester Art Museum in 1975—saving them from subsequent ruin caused by a fire that destroyed all but the façade of the Mount Vernon Congregational Church building in 1978.
At the time they were acquired, the panels were covered in decades of dirt and grime; there also appeared to be damage from the harsh Boston winters, as well as from prior attempts at repair in the 1960s. When the Museum began conservation work in 2017, conservators saw that the Tiffany windows were in excellent structural shape, requiring primarily cleaning and targeted restoration work to ensure their ongoing stability. However, it became clear that the La Farge windows required more significant restoration, including fixing pieces of glass that had begun to slip out of the structural grid. That work—which is ongoing—is expected to be completed in September 2018, at which point the La Farge panels will join the Tiffany pieces in the gallery.
Radiance Rediscovered: Stained Glass by Tiffany and La Farge is curated by T. Amanda Lett, a Ph.D. candidate in History of Art & Architecture at Boston University.
For more information, visit worcesterart.org.
A beginner’s guide to art history
Museum researchers tell us that the average visitor spends just 17 to 27 seconds in front of an artwork -
yet such a short window of time won't reveal much about the history of the artwork. So, what should you be looking for when you stand in front of a work of art? Here, Dr Laura-Jane Foley shares her top tips on visual analysis and explains why you - the viewer - are just as important as the person who created it…
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We’ve all heard the philosophical riddle that makes us question our understanding of perception. If we are not present does something still happen? In the case of a work of art, your presence is paramount, because an artwork needs you more than you might realise.
In his seminal work Art and Illusion, first published in 1960, art historian Ernst Gombrich wrote about “the beholder’s share”. It was Gombrich’s belief that a viewer “completed” the artwork, that part of an artwork’s meaning came from the person viewing it. He wasn’t concerned with the artists and what their intentions were; he was interested in what we, the viewers, brought to an artwork. What we project onto an artwork depends on our backgrounds – our upbringing and education, the experiences we’ve had, how we process information, how we look at the world. The meaning we give an image is filtered through all the years of life we’ve lived.
Historians, and those with an interest in history, are always keen to explore new periods and broaden their historical knowledge and understanding – but are often put off by images. Despite so many shared features, the ‘history of art’ is always slightly separated from ‘history’. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, for example, the history of art department shared a faculty with architecture rather than history.But there are many reasons why historians should welcome history of art into the fold and notbe fearful of images.
This fear, or ambivalence, oftenstems from a lack of understanding about what to do in front of a work of art – and it is perfectly understandable. Visual literacy is not encouraged at school and most people interested in general history would be flummoxed by the idea of undertaking a visual analysis of an artwork. And yet, a formal analysis – spending time in front of an artwork, looking closely at the image – is one of the basic elements of art history. The good news for those who want to understand artworks a little better is that it is both deeply rewarding and easy to do.
What should I look for?A visual analysis begins by looking, really looking, at an image. Museum researchers tell us that the average visitor spends just 17 to 27 seconds in front of an artwork. No wonder people are so convinced art is hard to understand if they’re spending so little time engaging with it. I don’t think I’d get very far understanding the Franco-Prussian War if I just listened to half a minute of a lecture. We need to slow down and start noticing all the elements of an artwork. Before rushing ahead to consider content and context, simply consider the basic formal elements of the image: line, colour, shape and form. Here’s a brief guide to get you started…
Let’s imagine we’re looking at a painting on a canvas. Firstly, focus on the lines– look at what sort of marks have been made on the picture surface and try and describe them. Is the line thick, bold, expressive or dotted, etc? What emotions or moods do these lines and marks suggest to you? Are the lines horizontal or vertical and what is the effect of these lines? Are some lines more noticeable than others? Do they dominate the image? For what purpose? Are the shapes in the painting outlined? What is the effect? Can you see under-drawing or any other marks underneath the painting? Has there been an attempt to disguise these?
Next look at colour. What colour scheme has been used? Unmixed primary colours? Secondary colours? Are the colours complementary? Monochrome? Cool or warm? Is the palette broad or muted? Do any colours dominate the canvas? Does the choice of colour make you feel anything in particular? What is the effect of the colour choices? Are the colours bold and vibrant, or pale and muted? All the time when looking at the formal qualities, ask yourself what the effect is of their appearance in the artwork. For example, if the image is in black and white monochrome, what does it remind you of? Newspapers or old photographs, perhaps? Does the absence of colour give the artwork a sense of a loss? Or does the monochrome palette shift the focus of the painting onto another element – like its form or content?
‘The Triumph of Death’ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562–3. (Photo by Remo Bardazzi / Electa / Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Shapes and forms
Next in your visual analysis, look at the shapes and forms. Is the scheme geometric, angular or free-flowing? Are the shapes irregular, simple or complex? Are the shapes/forms repeated and what is the effect of this? How are the shapes arranged? Are they grouped together, or far apart? Are they overlapping? Do they fuse with other shapes/forms? What are the edges of the shapes and form like? Are they distinct or fuzzy? Are there any relief (3D) elements to the painting? Does the paint build up sculpturally on the canvas? Is any other material added to the canvas? What about perspective? Is there a vanishing point? Is there an illusion of the three-dimensional on the two-dimensional picture surface?
This is a very brief guide to what a formal visual analysis of a painting is – there’s plenty more to look at and discuss – but I hope it gives you a way in. The main tip is to observe and describe the formal elements of the artwork generally and in detail, before analysing it in relation to any external factors. Because when we deeply observe an artwork, we see and understand so much more and this ultimately leads to achieving a greater enjoyment from looking at art.
Having completed a formal analysis then it is time to move on to content. Simply, what are you looking at. What, or who, is being depicted, if anything. Are any scenes or figures recognisable from history, religious stories, current affairs, or pop culture? Or do they perhaps remind you of something in your own life? Can you work out the relationship of the figures to each other in the artwork? What can we tell about them from the clothes they wear, the poses they adopt or the expression on their faces? What objects, props or places are included in the artwork? Are they recognisable? Are they symbolic? Finally, what is the title of the artwork? Does it enhance your understanding?
Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette’ by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876. (Photo by: Christophel Fine Art/UIG via Getty Images)
Finally, we look at context and this is where history of art and history are as one. This is the critical analysis; the point at which we explore and evaluate all the social, political, economic and cultural factors that may have had a bearing on the artwork or the artist, or were simply present at the time when the artwork was created. We also can look at what comparisons can be made with other artworks or artists. And this is the point to ask what was the artist’s original intention in creating the artwork and where was it originally displayed?
So we only look at the artist at the very end. The most important person in the whole process is you. What do youthink when you look at an artwork? You are at the centre of the visual analysis. Gombrich was quite right: it is the viewer who completes the artwork. So my advice for getting more out of art is to spend more time in front of it and to look really closely, because you are the only critic who matters.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639. Etching, with touches of drypoint; 8.07 x 6.45 in.
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.
Denver Art Museum is the sole venue for Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker, opening Sept. 16. Coinciding with the 350th anniversary of the Dutch artist’s death (1606–1669), the exhibition will offer fresh insight into the life and career of the masterful printmaker.
About 100 prints from Rembrandt van Rijn’s career spanning from 1625 to 1665 will be showcased, including biblical, portrait, allegory, still life, landscape and genre artworks that demonstrate the mastery that cemented Rembrandt as one of the greatest artists in history.
The exhibition will show how Rembrandt used his view of the world around him to fuel his artistic journey, and will give a deeper understanding of his working habits as an artist and, more specifically,
as a printmaker.
Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker will take a close look at Rembrandt’s innovative approach to printmaking that combined the three principle methods of intaglio: etching, drypoint and engraving. While the exhibition focuses on Rembrandt's exploration of printmaking, 17 drawings and several paintings also will be on view to provide additional context about his creative process in all media.
An exhibition catalog will be available in The Shop at the Denver Art Museum and online in the fall of 2018.
Writers, Journalists and Publishers from around the World.