Traveling exhibitions of [Berthe Morisot]'s work are not common. But one has opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Called "Berthe Morisot: An Impressionist and Her Circle," the show includes 45 works by Morisot and 30 by her Impressionist friends and family. They are the heart of a collection that her grandson and his wife bequeathed to the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris in 1996. After closing here May 8, the exhibition will go on to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee.
The canvases of Morisot do not overpower a viewer with great drama. She liked to paint her family, her friends and the gardens in the Bois de Boulogne near her Paris home. French poet Paul Valery, who was married to her niece, once wrote that "the peculiarity of Berthe Morisot ... was to live her painting and to paint her life.... She would take up the brush, leave it aside, take it up again, in the same way as a thought will come to us, vanish, and return.... I am tempted to say that her work as a whole is like the diary of a woman who uses color and line as her means of expression." That diary was intimate and small-scale, and the works in the exhibition reflect that mood.
ARTIST AS SUBJECT: [Edouard Manet]'s "Portrait of Berthe Morisot Reclining," 1873.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Images courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts; SHARED STYLE: "The Cherry Tree," 1891, evokes the work of Morisot's close friend [Pierre-Auguste Renoir].; PHOTOGRAPHER: Images courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts; SCENE WITHIN A SCENE: On her honeymoon, Morisot captured her husband in "Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight," 1875.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Images courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts