Behind the Feminine Façade: Reinterpreting Berthe Morisot

Allison Smith


This paper traces the evolution of intellectual discourse concerning Berthe Morisot, an Impressionist artist, by examining the methods of art history evaluation that emerged in the wake of the Second and Third Wave Feminist Movements. Morisot is used as a case study to investigate the ways in which gender affected scholarly critiques of female artists. A historiographical approach is taken in order to analyze the progression of scholarship on Morisot and determine the basis on which she has been granted credibility as an integral member of the Impressionist group. The paper reveals that the language used to discuss Morisot changes in the 1960s and 1970s to focus on her identity as a woman. The canon of research then expanded to include discussion of Morisot’s value as an artist who was able to masterfully depict her experience as a woman in 19th century Europe. This paper asserts that Morisot challenged societal expectations of herself, and women in general, through her representations of femininity and motherhood. Ultimately, the reevaluation of Morisot led art historians to develop new techniques to examine female painters, and their works, as unique commentary and reflections of time, gender, and social experience.


Impressionism; Feminism; Gender

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