Berthe Morisot
Young Girl in a Ball Gown

Young Girl in a Ball Gown
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Young Girl in a Ball Gown
1879
Oil on canvas
H. 71; W. 54 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Jeune femme en toilette de bal [Young Girl in a Ball Gown]


This brilliant, free evocation of a young, unknown woman in a ball gown is the complete opposite of the society or official portrait produced by the regular painters at the Salon. In this work, Impressionism meets the art of Manet, Berthe Morisot's brother in law. However, in spite of the modernity of her style, the critics had always supported Morisot. So when she presented about fifteen paintings at the fifth Impressionist Exhibition in 1880, including this one, Charles Ephrussi, in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, wrote a poetic description and a sensitive analysis of the paintings: "Berthe Morisot is very French in her distinction, elegance, gaiety and nonchalance. She loves painting that is joyous and lively; she grinds flower petals onto her palette, in order to spread them later on her canvas with airy, witty touches, thrown down a little haphazardly. These harmonise, blend, and finish by producing something vital, fine, and charming". These observations, although general, apply perfectly to this painting in which a model sits amidst flowers and greenery that find an echo, as much in the forms as in the treatment, with the trimmings on her dress.

Berthe Morisot also enjoyed the recognition of artists, and she immediately sold her Young Girl in a Ball Dress to Giuseppe de Nittis (1846-1884), an Italian painter who took part in the first Impressionist Exhibition. The painting then passed into the collection of the art critic Théodore Duret (1838-1927) who, through the entreaties of the poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), agreed, in 1894, to sell it to the State.


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