Lot 144
  • 144

Berthe Morisot

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Rivière au Bois de Boulogne
  • Oil on canvas
  • 19 7/8 by 24 1/8 in.
  • 50.4 by 61.2 cm


Sara Jane Pansa, New York (and sold by the estate: Christie's, New York, May 16, 1985, lot 310)
Acquired at the above sale


Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Madame Eugène Manet, Expositions de son oeuvre1896, no. 114
Paris, Galerie Druet, Berthe Morisot, 1905, no. 17


Marié-Louise Bataille & Georges Wildenstein, Berthe Morisot, Catalogue des peintures, pastels et aquarelles, Paris, 1961, no. 202, p. 36
Alain Clairet, Delphine Montalant & Yvès Rouart, Berthe Morisot, 1841-1895, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Paris, 1997, no. 206, illustrated p. 215


The work is in very good condition. The canvas is unlined. The surface is richly textured. Some extremely fine lines of stable craquelure are visible in raking light within the center of the composition. There are a few extremely minor pinhole losses to the pigment, two in the upper right, one in the center right edge and one toward the bottom center edge. Under UV light: certain original pigments fluoresce and a few minor nailhead sized spots of inpainting are present, including one at the top center edge. Otherwise fine.
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.

Catalogue Note

Popular as a wooded retreat among promenaders and picnickers, the lush vegetation of the Bois de Boulogne offered the Parisian bourgeoisie a small respite from urban life. Residing steps away from the Bois at her home in Passy, Berthe Morisot produced some of her greatest masterpieces depicting the suburban greenery and those who frequented it (see fig. 1). As stated by the poet Paul Valéry: “Living on the edge of the Bois, she found it gave her landscape enough: trees, the gleaming lake, and sometimes ice for skaters. She was often teased by Mallarmé, a lyric enthusiast for the trees of Fontainebleau, on account of this taste she had for the moderate groves and the mediocre shades that are all that is to be had between the Port Dauphine and the Seine. For him, the Bois was a meagre affair, devoid of mystery and lofty groves. But Berthe contented herself with nature’s Parisian parsimony, taking from it what it gave, the themes for some exquisite works”(quoted in Tamar Garb, Women Impressionists, New York, 1986, p. 18). While it may have paled in comparison to the forests of Fontainebleau in Mallarmé’s view, the Bois offered Morisot one of the few semi-public spaces in which she could paint en plein air within the social conventions prescribed by her class and gender. While nearly all members of the Impressionist group depicted parks and squares in their oeuvre, Morisot was so devoted to the Bois that her daughter Julie christened it “this garden which posed for Maman” (quoted in Clare A.P. Willsdon, In the Gardens of Impressionism, New York, 2004, p. 15). Like her female colleagues, Morisot benefited from the additional freedom of the urban garden, many of which sprang up during the “great horticultural movement” afforded by the wider boulevards of Haussmann’s Paris. As noted by Clare Willsdon: “For women Impressionists, such as Berthe Morisot, Marie Bracquemond, and, of course, Cassatt herself, gardens were ‘safe’ or socially acceptable places where they could not only stroll, sew, read, or play with children, but also paint from real life” (ibid., p. 15).

Morisot’s access to the sites where her fellow Impressionists worked may have been limited, but her contemporaries recognized her as “one of the moving spirits behind Impressionism, instrumental in formulating its aesthetic, and faithful to the idea of organizing and exhibiting in independent exhibitions” (Tamer Garb, op. cit., p. 12). Rivière au Bois de Boulogne displays the classic aesthetic of Morisot’s Impressionism, placing broad brushstrokes atop light ground to convey the interplay of light and shadow. The mixing of feathered brushstrokes and fine detail further expresses the fleeting sensation of vision one might have strolling through the Bois. While deeply committed to the Impressionist style, Morisot often utilized the palette of her instructor Corot, injecting a subtle blend of grey, green and brown tones into her spontaneous brushwork (see fig. 2). However, rather than illustrate the idyll of peasant life depicted by Corot, Morisot preferred the everyday surroundings of her bourgeois environment. Ultimately, Morisot’s limitation to a private female domain spurred a deeper examination of those environments available within the confines of her sex, capturing the act of looking and recording life in progress from her personal point of view.