“My ambition is limited to the desire to capture something transient, and yet, this ambition is excessive.” –Berthe Morisot (Bourges, France 1841-1895 Paris) Impressionist painter
One of our newest Caticons, “Young Girl with a Cat” is a dry-point etching by the great female Impressionist Berthe Morisot. The sweet-faced girl cradling a cat in the print is Morisot’s own daughter Julie Manet and was created after a painting of Julie by Auguste Renoir.
Morisot showed her work in the very first exhibition by the artists who would be labeled “Impressionists” by sneering art critic Louis Leroy whose own work “Chats Jouant Dans Une Grange (Cats Playing in a Barn),” is also in the collection (see Caticons page 32). She was the only woman to do so, and ultimately, her work appeared in seven out of the eight Impressionists shows.
She befriended Edouard Manet, considered the father of Impressionism, even though he never actually exhibited with the other Impressionist artists. She obviously inspired him, as he painted several portraits of her, and the two were said to have influenced each other’s work. (See Manet’s work on pages 17, 27, 143 and 273 in Caticons.) She encouraged him to work out of doors and introduced him to her circle of artist friends including Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Later, Manet married Edouard Manet’s brother who forewent his own career to help Morisot with hers. Julie was their only child and one of Morisot’s favorite subjects.
Highly popular during her own lifetime, she sold more works than both Renoir and Monet. Her prodigious talent is quite evident in “Young Girl with a Cat,“ for both children and cats are notoriously hard to render as they both tend to be in constant motion. Indeed, one can see the cat struggling in the smiling girl’s embrace. As for her desire to capture the transient, she succeeded splendidly. In the words of a contemporary art critic, “Her painting has all the frankness of improvisation; it truly is the impression caught by a sincere eye and accurately rendered by a hand that does not cheat.”