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The Cage

Berthe Morisot1885/1885

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Painted in 1885, “The Cage” typifies Berthe Morisot’s mature style, pushing the boundaries of Impressionism.

About 1880, Morisot, Edouard Manet, and Eva Gonzalès began experimenting with painting on unprimed canvas. The texture of the heavy woven fabric affected Morisot’s paint application, which became increasingly loose and sketchy.

Using a limited palette dominated by brown, white, and green, the artist constructed a still life comprising a birdcage and a bowl of flowers set against an ambiguous background of choppily executed strokes of paint. A study of juxtaposed forms and solids against voids, “The Cage” demonstrates Morisot’s ability to give a painting the same unstudied appearance as a watercolor.

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  • Title: The Cage
  • Creator: Berthe Morisot
  • Date: 1885/1885
  • selected exhibition history:Berthe Morisot: Impressionist, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum with the National Gallery of Art, South Hadley, Massachusetts, & Washington, D.C., 1987; “Berthe Morisot (1841-1895),” Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1941; “Berthe Morisot (Madame Eugène Manet): Exposition de son oeuvre,” Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1896
  • artist profile: Berthe Morisot, associated with Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Degas, participated in seven of the eight Impressionist group exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. Morisot’s mother supported her daughter’s ambitions by allowing her a serious art education. She flourished artistically, copying old-master paintings at the Louvre, studying under the Barbizon painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and learning plein-air (outdoor) painting. During the 1860s, Morisot developed a close professional relationship with Edouard Manet. In 1864, she began submitting works to the Paris Salon, where she showed regularly through the rest of the decade. In 1874, Morisot was invited to exhibit with the Société Anonyme des Artistes-Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs—a landmark event that would become known as the first exhibition of the Impressionists. Morisot achieved significant critical recognition during her lifetime, although 19th- and 20th-century critics focused on the “feminine” qualities of her work: intuitiveness, spontaneity, and delicacy. Her work was included in George Petit’s International Exhibition in Paris as well as in Paul Durand-Ruel’s exhibition of Impressionist painting in New York, both in 1887. Married to Eugène Manet (brother of Edouard Manet), Morisot had one daughter, Julie, whom she painted frequently and who provided the inspiration for her paintings documenting women’s lives, including “Jeune femme en toilette de bal” at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
  • Style: Impressionism
  • Physical Dimensions: w15 x h19.875 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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