Two Women Impressionists – Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt


Entering the established art world as a woman in the 19th century was very difficult, but being involved in a group of anti-Establishment artists such as the Impressionists made this task virtually impossible.

Yet Berthe Morisot became one of the few woman Impressionists to make her reputation in this male dominated world. Brought up in a wealthy and respectable family, she was given private art tuition and regularly copied paintings in the Louvre. She met Edouard Manet who became a life long supporter and admirer who painted the beautiful Berthe on many occasions : this relationship continued after she married Edouard’s brother Eugene in 1874.

Berthe was extremely talented but suffered self doubts not helped by her mother’s disregard for her chosen career. Her works are both delicate and sensitive and she worked in oils, pastels and watercolours. She exhibited regularly with the Impressionists and even took part in their famous first exhibition at Nadar’s studio in 1874.


In later life Berthen became a central figure in the Impressionist circle being particularly close to Renoir and Monet. She regularly painted her only daughter Julie and we can see her growing up through the eyes of her mother. As result of Berthe’s determination and success, women artists found it much easier to enter the profession in the 20th century.

Born near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt spent most of her adult life in France. She travelled extensively in Europe with her parents, before settling in Paris in 1866 to study painting. Unable as a woman to join the Ecole des Beaux Arts she copied paintings in the Louvre. At first her work was accepted by the Salon, but after a series of rejections she was invited to exhibit with the Impressionists by Degas with whom she had an enduring, but platonic relationship. Although she was never married Mary Cassatt became a wonderful painter of domestic scenes in particular mothers with small children which she depicted in oils and pastels. She was also an outstanding printmaker deeply influenced by the Japanese. Mary also played an important role in introducing French Impressionism to the United States.