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In a Villa at the Seaside, 1874

Berthe Morisot

French, 1841-1895
Oil on canvas
19-3/4 x 24 in. (50.2 x 61 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1979.21.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

After Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot was the most dedicated Impressionist. She exhibited in seven out of eight exhibitions, and in so doing, defied the conventions of her gender. This painting was not only included in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 but was also the first listed in the catalogue. Many of Morisot’s paintings feature the women and children who populated her refined domestic life. Here, indications of her upper-class status abound, such as in the dress of the female figure and in the deluxe vacation spot on the beach. Yet Morisot’s strikingly modern composition is anything but conventional. Quick, confident brushwork describes the white lace trim along the ruffled edges of a black skirt, the transparent veil that blocks the sun and sand from the woman’s face and the architecture of the veranda that separates the woman and girl from the public beach. Together these details magnificently define both the contemporary state of avant-garde painting as well as that of French femininity.

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