Berthe Morisot at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight MUSEE MARMOTTAN MONET, PARIS,

Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) was a founder member of the impressionist group of French painters. Monet and Renoir might be better known, and as a woman she faced many obstacles in entering that world, but Berthe Morisot made a very significant contribution the development of art in the 19th century. Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism, the new show in Dulwich Picture Gallery, explores that contribution.

Divided into four rooms, each of which highlights a particular aspect of her work, the exhibition brings together over 30 works, many of which have never been seen in the UK. Unlike her male counterparts, Berthe Morisot rarely painted the great outdoors. Rather her work is more intimate, focusing almost exclusively on the lives of women. That said, this is not just a celebration of her work, but the exhibition also reveals a previously undiscovered connection between her work and that of French and British artists of the 18th century. 

At the Ball 1875 Musee Marmottan Paris

The first room contains a series of portraits which capture moments in time or women in repose. Her cool greens, blues and greys and vigorous brushwork are reminiscent of the work of Renoir and Monet, but come together in some fine pieces. These are gentle but passionate glimpses into the world of women. 

The work in the second room charts her interest in British portrait painters – notably Gainsborough and Reynolds – and French artists such as Fragonard and Boucher. By placing her work next to examples from these earlier artists, the exhibition clearly demonstrates the connections and influences. This theme is continued in room 3, but additionally reveals some stylistic departures from what might be considered mainstream impressionism.

Julie Manet with her Greyhound Laerte Muse Marmottan Paris

The final room contains the works painted in the final decade of her life. These are luminescent, shimmering portraits – usually of friends and family members – full of confidence and love for the subject. These are, in my view, the best works and more interesting than the story of her links with earlier artists. 

Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism runs until 10 September in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD. 

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 – 5pm

Tickets £16.50. Concession £9.