- Femme à l'éventail
- Signed Berthe Morisot (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
- 24 3/8 by 20 1/2 in.
- 62 by 52 cm
Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above on February 24, 1906)
Henri Bernstein, Paris & New York (acquired from the above on May 29, 1909 and until at least 1936)
London, Anglo-French and Travel Society, Masters of French XIXth Century Painting, 1936, no. 41
New York, Waldorf Astoria, Special Showing-Benefit Federation of Jewish Philanthropes, 1957
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., 1960, no. 16, illustrated in the catalogue
Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art, Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Works by Manet, Degas, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, 1962, no. 83, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Exhibition, 1968
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., One Hundred Years of Impressionism: A Tribute to Durand-Ruel, 1970, illustrated in the catalogue
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art & San Francisco, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, The New Painting,
Impressionism, 1874-1886, 1986, no. 56, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts & Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Berthe Morisot, 2002, no. 37, illustrated in color on the cover (Martigny); illustrated in color in the catalogue (Martigny & Lille)
Vittorio Pica, ‘Artisti Contemporanei: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt’, in Emporium, 1907, no. 151, illustrated p. 5
Vittorio Pica, Gli Impressionnisti Francesi, Bergamo, 1908, illustrated p. 161
Monique Angoulvent, Berthe Morisot, Paris, 1933, no. 102, discussed
‘Tante Berthe in two exhibitions’, in Art News, November 1960, mentioned p. 40
Marie-Louis Bataille & Georges Wildenstein, Berthe Morisot, Catalogue des peintures, pastels et aquarelles, Paris, 1961, no. 67, illustrated " g. 118
John Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1961, illustrated p. 433
Malcolm Vaughan, ‘The Connoisseur in America: French Impressionism in Baltimore’, in Connoisseur, September 1962, no. 607, illustrated p. 65
Kathleen Adler & Tamar Garb, Berthe Morisot, Oxford, 1987, illustrated in colour " p. 41
Alain Clairet, Delphine Montalant & Yves Rouart, Berthe Morisot 1841-1895. Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Paris, 1997, no. 67, illustrated p. 146
Ruth Berson, The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, San Francisco, 1996, vol. 1, mentioned pp. 119,129 & 156; vol. II, no. III-120, illustrated p. 96
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
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The identity of the sitter for Femme à l’éventail is unknown; neither a member of the artist’s family or a professional model can be clearly identified. But what is particularly striking about the present work is that it calls to mind a portrait of Morisot herself, dressed in black and holding a fan, that Manet painted two years earlier (fig. 1). The present work may very well be Morisot's response to that portrait, but it arguably a presents a more intimate and psychologically compelling rendering of its glamorous female subject.
Berthe Morisot holds the distinction of being a founding member of the Impressionist group and one of its most important contributors (fig. 2). The casual elegance of her compositional style and her liberal application of paint, demonstrated beautifully in Femme à l’éventail and other paintings from the 1870s (fig. 3 & 4), helped to define the aesthetic of the movement. As one of its only women members in addition to the American, Mary Cassatt, Morisot lent a valuable female perspective to avant-garde art at the turn of the century. Her pictures gave insight to aspects of French society and provided a platform for ‘feminine’ subjects and concerns that remained unexplored by her male colleagues. The models for her paintings were mostly women and children, many of whom were members of her own family, and they posed for her with a level of ease and familiarity that was rarely seen in 19th century portraiture.
In the year the present work was painted Morisot and her fellow Impressionists organised the second Impressionist exhibition held in Durand-Ruel’s galleries at 11 rue Peletier. As had been the case at their previous group showing in 1874, the critics of Paris responded ferociously to these avant-garde artists. One review in particular by Albert Wolff infuriated Morisot’s husband, Eugène, so greatly that he challenged the author to a duel. Morisot remained undiscouraged by her critical reception and chose to exhibit Femme à l’éventail at the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. The show in general fared little better with the conservative press, but Emile Bergerat recognized the preeminent qualities of the present work writing, "The most gifted painter of all [the Impressionists], in the sense that they possess an innate gift for color, is a woman, Miss Berthe Morisot. This is the artist who has signed the best picture of the exhibition, a portrait of a woman holding a fan. Her brushstrokes are both spontaneous and precise" (Emile Bergerat, op. cit., April 17 1877, translated from French).
From 1877 onwards Morisot continued to be consistently singled out for her sophistication and exemplary technique. Reviewing another Impressionist exhibition for the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Charles Ephrussi wrote: ‘Berthe Morisot is 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 harmonize, blend and finish by producing something vital, fine, and charming that you do not see so much as intuit…" (Charles Ephrussi, ‘Exposition des artistes indépendants’, in Gazette des Beaux Arts, May 1, 1880, pp. 485-88, quoted in op. cit. (exhibition catalogue), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1992, p. 327.