With a mastery and technicality that rightfully ranked her as one of les trois grandes dames of Impressionism, Morisot draws out the illuminations of everyday life, refusing to give into the mundane through a work that is both spontaneous and playful, yet profoundly intimate. The artist herself declared, ‘My own ambition was limited to wanting to capture something of what goes by, just something, the smallest thing. Well, even that ambition is still excessive. An attitude of Julie’s, a smile, a flower, a fruit. The branch of a tree, any of these alone would be enough for me’ (quoted in Alain Clairet, Delphine Montalant & Yves Rouart, Berthe Morisot 1841-1895, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1997, p. 10).
Rendering the ordinary extraordinary, her work is bathed in the light of her daughter’s presence, and serves as a unique photographic album of Julie’s being, capturing her childish innocence in a moment suspended above the tribulations of life. Through delicate and moving brushworks that infuse the œuvre with sketch-like elements, Morisot fixes forever the passing instant in this exquisite portrayal of Julie at age fourteen. Documenting her daughter’s transformation into a woman, Morisot’s art reveals an essential familial bond between the artist and her daughter evident in the simultaneous cultivation of Julie and the construction of Morisot’s artistic identity. Delphine Montalant remarks that: ‘This maternal tenderness never spilled over into the maudlin. She did not paint Julie only because she loved her. Her daughter became the framework, the very architecture of the whole of her artistic production’ (quoted in Delphine Montalant, ‘Berthe Morisot: Through the Eyes of a Mother’ in Alain Clairet, Delphine Montalant & Yves Rouart, Berthe Morisot 1841-1895, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1997, p. 17). A poignant reflection on the carefree tranquillity of youth amidst the bitterness of death and adult life, the present work reveals the artist’s overwhelming affection for her daughter, one she proclaims, even in her deathbed: ‘My little Julie, I love you as I die; I shall still love you even when I am dead’ (quoted in Ibid).
Typifying the artist’s skilfull mastery of oil paint, Fillette jouant avec un chien (Julie Manet) is an important exemplar of Morisot’s œuvre that attests to the artist’s lasting influence on Impressionism, compelling art critic Camille Mauclair to declare, ‘What the public will retain of [Morisot] is in her paintings: the lively colours, the very sure yet very free composition, the ever-varied aspects of her figures and landscapes, the airy watercolours. These characterised her painting all along, through both hard times and times of triumph and recognition […] and allow her to figure brilliantly in modern art, side by side with Manet, Renoir and Degas" (quoted in Ibid, p. 104).
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