It is said of Ginger Rogers that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in high heels. Similarly, Berthe Morisot did everything her fellow French Impressionist painters did, but in a corset and with a chaperone beside her.
An exhibit at the Musée Marmottan (on view until July 1, 2012) reveals her massive talent, which she exercised in spite of the limitations placed on middle-class women in the late 19th century. She was excluded from the Ecole des Beaux Arts and had to take private lessons. She could not hire models, at least at first, so her subjects were family members and friends, mostly women. Painting in the open air usually meant painting in the family garden, since she could not wander too far afield on her own. And of course, she could not hang around in cafés with other painters late into the night, talking about art—but perhaps that is why she was so productive.
Nevertheless, she persevered in creating light-filled canvases of the scenes around her and developing the technique of capturing movement, texture, and reflections with quick brushstrokes of color.
The exhibit, which brings together paintings from major galleries as well as rarely shown works from private collections, is a must-see for anyone who enjoys French Impressionism. It also provides fascinating insights into the life of a woman painter ahead of her time.