Love story in paintings: Berthe Morisot and Édouard Manet
The mystery of the Trocadéro HillÉdouard Manet’s biography contains so many mysteries and understatements that the confusing story of the Trocadéro Hill is not the fruitiest or most striking one. But it is this story that one should begin with when it comes to Berthe Morisot.
Thanks to Manet’s biographer Henri Perruchot, the mystical and romantic legend keeps appearing online and on the pages of beauty magazines and even serious publications, stating that Manet saw View of Paris from the Trocadéro even before meeting Berthe. Manet was so impressed with the painting that he created his own one — from the same place: standing on the hill and looking at the Champs de Mars. By the way, Manet often turned to the paintings of other artists, reinterpreting their ideas and compositions. But he did it with indisputable masterpieces and geniuses: Goya, Raphael, Giorgione, Titian. But that time it was a beginning artist no one heard of!
The legend is beautiful — it would very precisely illustrate the affinity of souls and talents, confirming that even before they met, these two artists had been living in the same artistic dimension and breathing the same pictural air, anticipating and expediting the watershed moment when they first met… If it hadn’t been for one unfortunate slip: Manet’s View of the 1867 Exposition Universelle was created 5 years earlier than Berthe Morisot’s View of Paris from the Trocadéro.
The BalconyWhatever it be with premonitions and signs, the first meeting of Édouard and Berthe Morisot happened in the Louvre in 1868. The artist Henri Fantin-Latour introduced the Morisot sisters, Edma and Berthe, to the idol of all young painters, this scandalous and brilliant Manet, who became the talk of Paris after his Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia. Berthe was 27 years old and she didn’t want to settle down to married life, while her freethinking and refusing numerous admirers were seriously bothering her mother. And Manet had been married for a long time and was raising a child who was either the artist’s son or brother.
Morisot could not refuse the best artist of their time — she could have sessions every day, come to his studio, see his unfinished sketches, and finally understand what the secret of his amazing painting was. Of course, she came there with her mother, who would sit aside, knit and occasionally look at Manet.
Once, Madame Morisot half-jokingly said, "He looks like a madman." And Manet really was not quite himself: he refused profitable commissions not to miss their meetings, which would often make him shake with excitement, he would avidly grab his brushes, if Berthe half-turned to him or tiredly sat in a chair. He couldn’t resist painting her.
When the painting Balcony appeared at the Salon of 1869, the rumours about the "fatal woman" quickly spread through the halls, and Berthe’s acquaintances dropped her hints that the artist had painted her quite ugly. "I am more strange than ugly," Morisot wrote to her sister.
VioletsEducated and intelligent, often silent and restrained, too independent and talented, Berthe knew the value of her own style and personality. It was already difficult to exert a direct influence on her painting — and Manet simply freed her from doubts and directed the artist in her search. But he himself couldn’t do without her.
Édouard Manet. Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1870
In 1970, a young pupil appeared in the artist’s studio — it was 20-year-old Eva González who gave Manet a great opportunity to annoy Berthe and prove to himself that he could easily replace Morisot with any other model and muse. But it was not to be — Eva’s portrait came to no good and even after 40 sessions, it still looked artificial, lacking life and naturalness. Manet was enraged and decided to take his revenge on no one else but Berthe. Trying his best at praising the hard-working Eva, he would even throw her to Berthe’s face.
The fanBerthe Morisot was the only woman in the 'Manet gang' - a term, used to describe young artists who defied traditional painting and Salon (in a few years they would be called "Impressionists"). In the evenings, she could not come together with male artists to the Café Guerbois, where her friends argued about the fate and purpose of art, but she would gladly receive them in her parents' house and join them for plein air painting, talking about the same things.
In 1870, the themes for the evening conversations changed — first, the war began, and later — the grueling siege of Paris. In the evenings, Manet and Degas would often come to Morisot’s house, but they generally talked about the ways of defense and the possibilities of the National Guard, where both of them served as volunteeres. Manet’s brother Eugène also became a frequent visitor to Morisot’s house. Hunger and diseases reigned in the city, people ate cats and bought donkey meat at triple the price — neither Morisot nor Manet painted during those years.
The last presentIn 1873, Berthe turned 32 and understood: she had a man at her side, whom she could marry and remain faithful to her vocation. Over the past few years, Eugène Manet, Édouard 's brother, had become very close to her: it was easy and fun with him, he understood and appreciated her painting. And he was Manet, too.
There were more and more talks about the wedding in Morisot and Manet’s families. And the whole romantic story of the passionate, impossible love between Édouard and Berthe could seem to be a myth, if it wasn’t for the two eloquent paintings, Bouquet of Violets and the last portrait of Berthe, painted in 1874.
Author: Anna Sidelnikova