3. The style and description

The painting size


The work measures about 33 by 46 cm on the stretcher. The painting cracks are consistent with the 1863 dating while the diagonal nature of the cracks in the upper left half of the work are probably due to the looseness of the canvas on the stretcher (re: Teri Hensick, conservationist, Harvard Art Museum).


The companion work exhibited in 1864 (Vieux Chemin à Auvers) is the same size as this canvas. Additionally, an even earlier work by Morisot (Ferme en Normandie, painted in 1859-1860) is the same size.


Painting age


Teri Hensick gave the opinion that the work and the stretcher are entirely consistent with the period (mid to late 19th. century).


Professor Higonnet expressed the opinion that the work is consistent in content and style for the 1863 period.


Gilles Perrault, (Laboratoire d”Analysis d’Objets d”Art, Paris), stated that there is no doubt the canvas is an early example of impressionism and completely compatible with the period 1860-1870.


Madame Delphine Montalant agreed that the painting was a genuine impressionistic work of the period 1860-1880.




Morisot's style developed from her Corot training through influence by Manet and the other impressionists. At the time this work was created (1863), Corot was at the height of his popularity and many early impressionist styles were compared to his. Indeed, in 1863 Monet was compared to Corot in Monet's first Salon exhibit. This same fate awaited Morisot when she first exhibited "Souvenir des Bords de L'Oise" at the 1864 Salon. Morisot reacted unfavorably to the comparisons made.


Theodore Duret (Shennan at pages 290 and 291) stated of Berthe Morisot: "knew Manet about 1861, and was one of the first artists to borrow his method of painting in bright colors".


While Morisot painted some landscapes and still lives, her major body of work centered on human figures (often in landscapes). This work is unusual and does not conform to her later, much better known style. However, because it would be one of the earliest known Morisot works, and her style subsequently evolved, that should not be considered unusual. Her subsequent transition to figure paintings (usually placed in gardens or parks) appears to be one reason why this work has been long over-looked. However, “Souvenir des Bords de L’Oise” compares identically to the known “Chemin a Auvers” painted at the same time. They both reflect landscapes with minor fugures (crudely painted) placed in the landscape, and the paintings are identical in size.


The work shows all the characteristics of impressionism. The colors are unusual for the period, (certainly much brighter than Corot or the Barbizons) the figures are impressions, and not detailed, and clearly it is a plein aire work and not studio finished. The tree line in rear can possibly be compared to the tree line in "Paysage des environs de Valenciennes, 1875" (Catalogue Raisone #58).


In 1865, Morisot exhibited a figure painting ("Etude") at the Salon. This work is shown as figure 3.1, adjacent to the "L'Oise 1863 ("Le Parc") as figure 3.2. That she chose a bright red hair ribbon for the model in "Etude" was remarked on by Stuckey at Page 21 in "Berthe Morisot, Impressionist". The use of red pigment for the ribbon is remarkably compatible with the use of red for the woman's attire and the sky in " Souvenir des Bords de L'Oise ". It would appear that Morisot had a fondness for red at that time, and it may reflect the Manet influence as documented by Shennan in the Duret comment above.


On a further note, the Morisot sisters received some comment from the art critics after their 1864 Salon debut. The only commentary that actually described the works (albeit very broadly) was by Edmond About, writing in the "Le Petit Jornal", Paris 1864. He said:


        "Je passe rapidement sur les jolis pochades de Mesdemoiselles Berthe et Edma Morisot..." (Re: Catalogue Raisonné, P37).


The Catalogue Raisonné  (Clairet, Montalant and Rouart) at page 78 translates this phrase as:


         "I will just mention rapidly the pretty little sketches by Mesdemoiselles Berthe and Edma Morisot".


This is intriguing because Professor Higgonet thought "Le Parc" was "too small and sketchy” to be the Salon entry, "Souvenir des Bords de L'Oise" (refer to the Treatment Report).


This was later confirmed categorically by Gilles Perrault. He stated that there is no doubt the painting would be considered a “pochade” in the context of the Salon des Beaux Arts, and 1864 (see below).


The Edmond About comment would appear to add verification to the work being the long lost Salon entry of 1864.


Expert Opinion


Yves Rouart thought that the brush work is too impasto for Morisot, particularly on the left side of the canvas, and that then the colors are unusual for her bright reds particularly. This opinion was echoed by Madame Montalant. (Madame Montalant said the river and sky appeared OK, he nodded).


Both agreed, particularly Madame Montalant, that the work is a genuine impressionistic work of the period, probably 1860-1880. This due to the thin nature of the canvas and apparent age of the work.


The term “pochade” received considerable discussion. Mr Rouart felt that the work was a finished piece, and not a pochade. (This, of course, is most important considering that the only eye witness report we have of the work is the comment of Edmond About noted above).


On the other hand, Mr. Gilles Perrault stated categorically that the work would be considered a pochade in the context of the salon of 1864:


“Most works were very large scale and highly finished. That is why the signatures on some works are very large and look strange when viewed to-day. However, many of these works were hanged high up on the salon walls.


Because of the size of the Morisot paintings, they were probably at eye level. This work is definitely a "pochade" in the context of the Salon. Also, the work almost certainly had a cartouche, in metal, identifying the artist and the name of the work. It could well have been that the work was not signed for the purpose of the Salon”.


Brush work and palette

A closer look at the brush work of the painting shows strong horizontal and vertical strokes. Whereas more impasto than her later works, these brush strokes point directly to her loose and mixed orientation of her brush work in her better known works. In fact there is an astonishingly close similarity between this work and “Eugene Manet and his Daughter in the Garden” 1873 (figure 3.3) when both are viewed very close-up. This latter work is not without impasto and intriguingly, the single, bold, red stroke between father and daughter, points yet again to Morisot’s liking for the color red.


With regard to the comments of Mr. Rouart and Madame Montalant concerning the palette, it is worth noting the comments of Dominique Bona in “Berthe Morisot, le secret de la femme en noir” at page 57. Here she is discussing Morisot’s early period in the 1860s:


“Comme la plupart des Impressionistes, elle préfère le vif, le cru. Le rose, la jaune, le blanc, le vert pomme ne lui font pas peur. Ces tons-là sont dans sa nature.” 


(“Like most of the impressionists, she preferred bright and simple colors. She was not afraid to use pinks, yellows, whites and apple greens. These kind of colors were part of her nature”)


Many of Morisot’s works exhibit the use of reds (see above). Further it is common to find impasto touches in her works. Whereas this work may exhibit more impasto than most, it could reflect her paint handling at a relatively early age. But it should not be forgotten that during the time this painting was made (1863) she met Daubigny and Daumier (both of whom lived close by). Daubigny for sure exhibited a major influence at this time. A view of “Winter” by Daubigny (The Musée D’Orsay) exhibits significant impasto (and a very strong vermillion sky). Also her tutor of 1862 and 1863 (Corot) was not afraid to use impasto touches in several of his works.