I would like to talk about an art movement called Impressionism.
I love Impressionism because they have the styles that distinguish each artist with another artist. Every subject or object that they painted has meanings instead of just choosing random subjects. I would talk about two females who are involved in Impressionism movement. However, during that time, females artists were not so many, and only females from the wealthy family could afford to do paintings.
Let me share what I know.
Impressionism is an art movement started in the nineteenth century. The movement overthrew most of visual arts, such as paintings and scripture styles of that era. Impressionism took another modern turn of art forms that allow the artists to express themselves through applying their unique techniques, such as light brushstrokes, flatness, and opaque colors. Impressionism was gendered as female since it responses to nature and was passive contrarily to science.7Impressionists used color on their paintings to imply feminine emotion. Female impressionists’ paintings also emphasized on flatness and did not show firmness that often considered as “signs of (masculine) civilization imposed upon the unruly disorder of (feminine) nature.”8The two painters that were highly known at the time were Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Both depicted paintings with themes of leisure, bourgeois settings, and motherhood. Within this movement, these women were able to apply their experiences and expressions toward their canvas. Knowing that Berthe Morisot and Cassatt came from artistic families background, this research will examine the aspects of family background and social hierarchy that influenced Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt’s career path as women artists.
Born in 1840s and later continued their lives in Paris, Morisot and Cassatt started their early educations right in the same city and almost at the same time. During the stay in Paris Morisot started to paint that allowed her to submit her work in 1864 to the salon. Meanwhile, Cassatt was studying at Pennsylvania Academy where she was finding art instructions were very difficult to follow and gave unsatisfactory result. Within the year of 1880 and 1890, both met the decision to pursue artistic career that they both also helped to collect paintings. Their first together exhibition was in 1881 at the sixth impressionists’ exhibitions and five years later, they exhibited their work in Paris and New York that made them better established. Morisot and Cassatt’s past events showed how they had started contributing some roles in the art fields at the early life.
In late nineteenth century, various factors motivated Morisot’s and Cassatt’s decisions to purse their artistic careers. Firstly, Morisot was motivated by the increasingly number of women painters in her class who had chosen the artistic career paths. Secondly, Cassatt was motivated by her parents’ interest in art background, especially her father who was also an artist. Almost all renounced women painters had fathers who were artists. The fathers provided training, supported, and acted as role models to their daughters in artistic field.9Thirdly, the professional career of Morisot and Cassatt was influenced by their travel around the world where they learnt new artistic style and coloring medium. Experiences let them gain more knowledge on modern and creative styles of paintings, which motivated them to pursue artistic career. In relation to the artistic field, the impressionists encouraged female artists to start creating some original artwork to be exhibited that would be great opportunities for them.6Lastly, only those women artists who were coming from bourgeois family could afford the proper educations to their skills. However, impressionism movement provided a space for women to share ideas and defend their modern artistic work from critics. These are the examples of factors of Morisot and Cassatt’s decisions on art fields.
The people around Morisot could be one of the impacts of her choosing artistic career path. Morisot and her sister, Edma, had a close relationship and almost a similar goal to become professional painters that handled social critics and judgments on paintings. They both gave each other encouragements when they were facing some challenges related with gender issues since not many female artists at the time.7On the bright side, Morisot saw impressionism as cultural opportunities to link the buyers with the artists that could increase sales of paintings.
Cassatt’s parents were interested in culture at the time. She had the access to familiarize herself with artworks through attending exhibitions, art studios, and museums where art collection was kept.4Cassatt was highly passionate after attending those sites. Not to mention, her parents were also being prominent in artwork, and they provided Cassatt with opportunities to have networks with people in art fields; for example, the President of Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts who was his father’s old acquaintance.9All of this led back to Cassatt’s father role as an artist. He occupied her daughter with different art insight needed for her. Cassatt’s brother, Alexander, also had the skill and worked on some. This family background provided an opportunity for Cassatt to venture into art career as a woman artist. Later on her educational path, Cassatt got art training and experiences from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her parents were not conservative that they allowed Cassatt to join full time at the art school and take some classes showing nude body artwork. Through this view, Cassatt showed her concern to her parents’ interest by joining the art school since going to art school at the age of fifteen was considered to be so young.9
Both Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt depended on family finances to pay tuition fee for their art trainings. In that era, only those who were coming from wealthy family could afford educational necessities and travel from one city to another. Cassatt went to Paris and set up a studio using the family money. She also travelled to Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium to study more in depth on art through the family finances. Similarly, Morisot family was wealthy enough to finance artistic training to both Morisot and her sister, Edma. They both always painted side by side and encouraged one another. However, their teacher, Joseph Guichard, mentioned that Morisot and Edma’s ambitions in paintings would not make them be professional artists.7Later on Morisot’s life, she married late at the age of thirty-three and blessed with a daughter at the age of thirty seven. Her daughter had further aced Morisot’s ambitions and also skills in paintings as Hyslop mentioned on the article, “As she spent time with her daughter, she constantly used her daughter’s crayons which greatly contributed to the color and texture of her work in future paintings.6 Morisot’s contribution on modern motherhood was greatly inspired by the birth of her daughter. She would also often use herself and her daughter to pose for her as a way of expressing the theme of mother and child relationship. “She used herself and her daughter Julie as models to express the theme of mother and child relationship.1Morisot showed how her family had made some major impacts on her skills. As she painted more paintings, she became better and better. Morisot insisted through her artistic work through the responsibility of a mother is to train, nurture, provide moral support, and provide early education.
Looking through Berthe Morisot’s biography in depth, she was born in 1841 in Bourges. In 1851, she later moved to Paris where she later started her artistic painting in 1855 a year before she left Paris. Morisot was considered as both a model and a painter. She would paint her self-portrait with Julie, or sometimes just herself. Guichard had warned her parents that Morisot’s paintings career could not end up well. However, with her passionate ambition, she continued with her art career that later in the early 1860s, she had a chance to know Corot through her interest in outdoors.11Corot would later become her informal teacher providing her with explanations of the feelings and effects that her earlier landscape showed. Since she was an independent artist, her work was unique and did not follow most of the artistic instructions at the time. Morisot worked more in the churches and museums than in art studios. In 1869, Morisot presented one of Edouard Manet’s paintings, The Balcony at the Salon.11The painting shows a good representation of her figure portrait with that gazing eyes while observing the city life and gives the tension of disconnectedness among the figures. Manet’s painting had surely influenced Morisot as they both came from artistic background.
During the impressionism era, not all women succeeded their artistic career paths as Morisot and Cassatt did. According to Cassatt, women success in art had been attributed to the fact that they had applied specialization approaches with a critical focus on low material cost. In this way, the social disparities made women in art becoming more aggressive to meet the average social expectations.5In the same understanding, the additional effort put by women was crucial as it could improve their levels of innovation in art work. Women mastered much of the needed expertise before or without the formal training.5Woman’s succeed was a result of proper encouragement through relevant initiatives that had improved the involvement and exposure of women. Clearly, the challenges that women faced in the society ranging from social discrimination to community negative perceptions had added a marginal effort making a large percentage for them successful.
Through further discussion,some of the issues that made women fail included their shifted attention to marriage and family life.8In the world of art, women that would have become prosperous and talented artists gave up the career to become mothers4. In this way, they are considered to have failed in the quest of art as they shift all the attention to family life not like Morisot who got some support from her husband, Eugene Manet, whose brother was also an artist.7In addition, women had also attributed their failure in artwork to child birth. Giving a childbirth and early parenting slowed down their progress in art.5Secondly, the lack of access to artistic training had become another aspect on why women failing in artistic career path. Not all women artists were able to fund themselves going to classes or lessons. Also, studies showed that women were more involved in family responsibilities compared to their male counterparts. The discrimination hypothesis describes the inclusions of the social perception against the success of women. A combination of these attributes describes the reasons behind the failure of women in artwork.5
In the examination of family backgrounds, their roles had influenced the work of art both positively and negatively. Sisterhood showed the roots of artistic transgressions within family circles. As demonstrated by Mary Cassatt, school training as well as the training received from her father laid down the foundation of her art career. The mission to explore more artwork made Cassatt able to travel wide. In spring 1872, she received a reception in Parma, which was great achievement. In the same year, she participated in the Salon that was anticipated to show a great success.9Through the encouragements and passion, the impacts of family background and social hierarchy are both crucial in shaping Morisot’s and Cassatt’s skills to artistic career paths.
Despite the challenges that women faced, they had always stood out and succeeded in different occasions. In the same understanding, Cassatt presented a painting titled During the Carnivalwhich later came to be identified in the painting titled Two Women Throwing Flowers “During Carnival.”10The painting described the figures as one woman slightly behind the other in the balcony throwing pink flowers to the down floor. The choice of the scene was a reflection Cassatt experience from France and Rome parades. It represented the European custom where women on the balconies used to throw nosegays’ to men dancing around the street with fancy costumes.10The Americans often saw it as romantic, and the romantic mood attracted Cassatt as a theme to paint about.
Art specialization is one of the reasons for success among women. Notably, Mary Cassatt’sSelf Portrait1880 shows the modern use of color at the impressionism era. Adopting the opaque color and loose brushstroke gave the sense of impressionism. Cassatt used mixture of dark colors and touches of light colors to show great creativity at the time. All of these showed how Cassatt had undergone through different aspects of art by joining the art school, and how her experiences throughout moving from one place to another place give her more creativity. Since she was coming from wealthy family, she depicted herself as a painter with a bourgeois dress and hat on top. Although the brush and canvas could not be seen clearly, Cassatt gave a loose, unfinished sketch to give that sense of artistic painter. Taking on the aspect of flatness emphasized the literal meaning of the painting and touch of the painter. In explaining the causes of success among women, the artwork by Mary Cassatt, Maternity, 1897 represents the modern way of motherhood. Cassatt showed how family, especially her child, had given a major impact in her skill of drawing. She would often draw mothers nurturing their children to show the affection within the two subjects. The loose and unfinished sketch gave a kind of dreamy look that also brought up a sense of soothing for the viewers. It also shows a huge impact of relationship between mother and child through spending time together as opposed to later version of motherhood where children were taken to nursing homes.
Modernization has also contributed to increased positivity and women success in the social perception towards women in the artwork. In the art by Berthe Morisot, Self-Portrait and her Daughter, 1885, the self-portrait shows the modern artistic style at the time by use of unfinished sketchy style. The purpose was to depict impressionism era where opaque colors, loose sketch like painting, and flatness play huge roles in shaping their skills. In this self-portrait with her daughter, Morisot tried to show how she as a painter had highly influenced by her daughter throughout spending time together. She often accompanied her daughter and experimented with her daughter’s crayons that would impact Morisot’s skill and creativity.6Like Cassatt’s Maternity, Morisot’s self-portrait with her daughter also portrayed a theme of motherhood. The theme of motherhood was one of the factors indicating family had an impact in her art skills. Morisot did not paint completely on Julie giving the sense dreamy kind of feeling. Julie was wearing a dress that seemed like only bourgeois family could afford that. Morisot had successfully depicting her intentions through details that would make the viewers notice. Another painting by Morisot titled Eugene Manet and Julie at Bougival, 1883showed a progress of how color had become more opaque compared to the self-portrait showing how she experimented throughout her progress within the same figure as Julie was in the painting. The other contribution to women’s success is the involvement of the male spouses in the family responsibilities. Regarding involvement of men in home responsibilities as a cause for success, the painting shows the father daughter relationship where an artistic father Eugene was training her daughter the artwork.11The painting shows the foundation of women in art as the father’s trainings and motivations to enter into the artwork.
In conclusion, the research shows an in depth representation of the roles the family background and social hierarchy played in the careers of both Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Coming from wealthy families the two women were able to attend art classes as well as travel to explore more artworks. The opportunities lied highly upon them making them to choose the artistic career paths.
These are the references!
I hope you find it interesting to know.
- Buettner, Stewart. “Images of Modern Motherhood in the Art of Morisot, Cassatt, Modersohn-Becker, Kollwitz.” Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, 1986, pp. 14–21.
- Board, Marilynn Lincoln. “Woman’s Art Journal.” Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 1994, pp. 38–40., www.jstor.org/stable/1358603.
- Cassatt, Mary Stevenson. Self Portrait. 1878. Watercolor, gouache on wove paper laid down to buff-colored wood-pulp paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Cassatt, Mary Stevenson. Maternity.1897.
- Cowen, Tyler. “Why Women Succeed, and Fail, in the Arts.” Journal of Cultural Economics, vol. 20, no. 2, 1996, pp. 93–113.
- Hyslop, Francis E. “Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.” College Art Journal, vol. 13, no. 3, 1954, pp. 179–184., www.jstor.org/stable/772550.
- Kornbluh, Felicia. “The Secret of Her Success.” The Women’s Review of Books, vol. 8, no. 2, 1990, pp. 13–14.
- Lewis, Mary Tompkins. “Women Artists.” Art Journal, vol. 53, no. 3, 1994, pp. 90–92.
- Mathews, Nancy Mowll. “Background and Early Education: (1844–1865).” Mary Cassatt: A Life, Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 3–28, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bhkp6n.4.
- Mathews, Nancy Mowll. “Becoming Professional: (1870–1874).” Mary Cassatt: A Life, Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 62–92, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bhkp6n.6.
- Mathews, Nancy Mowll. “Documenting Berthe Morisot.” Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, 1989, pp. 46–49.
- Morisot, Berthe. Eugene Manet and Julie at Bougival. 1883
- Morisot, Berthe. Self-Portrait and her Daughter. 1885