6. Conclusions and an Hypothesis

Why the work is "Souvenir des Bords de L'Oise" by Berthe Morisot

All the circumstantial evidence points to the fact that this is an original Berthe Morisot work and further that it is the long lost "Souvenir des Bords de L'Oise" that was exhibited at the Salon of 1864.

The main points can be summarized as follows:

1. The canvas and appearance of the work are entirely consistent with the 19th. Century and it is clearly an example of early impressionism, as confirmed by Mr. Gilles Perault and Delphine Montalant.

2. Morisot died in 1895. Professor Higonnet states that forgeries of Morisot's work started to appear in the 1890s. Logic would dictate that forgeries would not appear until after her death.

3. The work does not resemble Morisot's known style. It would be very unlikely that a faker would develop a Morisot forgery after 1895 in an entirely different style.

4. Morisot summered once in Le Chou (in 1863). We know the work was created there and that it is of the period. It is incomprehensible that at the time of Morisot's death or soon after, some one would recognize this connection (of 32 years previous) and fake a work based on the location. It is also important to recognize, that although Morisot is relatively well known today, her works were not well regarded or known by the public at large. Other artists would surely have attracted the attention of forgers well ahead of Morisot. (Her sale prices were very modest). Further, Professor Higonnet states that Frenchmen (of that period) were generally misogynists, and therefore were not attracted to Morisot's works (therefore less potential for a forger to sell his work).

Morisot's life was not chronicled until about 1925 (Armand Forreau "Berthe Morisot") more comprehensively in 1933 (Monique Angoulvent ‘Berthe Morisot’.) So her distant connection with Le Chou, and the river Oise would have been known to very few people and remembered by even fewer, prior to about 1930.

5.  The work is precisely as described by Edmond About in 1864, and by Anne Higgonet in 2001. Further, both Shennan and Denis Rouart refer to the "small river scenes" painted by Morisot at that time. Of most interest is that Edmond About referred to it as “un pochade” which term entirely conforms to the work as confirmed by Mr. Gilles Perrault. Most interestingly, Professor Higonnet thought the work was ‘rather sketchy’, which is very close to the term ‘pochade’ used 140 years earlier!

6. Professor Higonnet states that work could be by Morisot (she apparently has seen many fakes), but it could also be by Berthe's sister Edma. There is no record form this period of the work of either sister, so conceivably Edma could have painted the work. While a possibility, I find it unlikely that in such a case the work was subsequently signed "Berthe Morisot". Particularly given a verbal opinion by Teri Hensick that the signature could have been added up to 20 years after the work was created. If that was the case, Berthe Morisot would have been alive and well, and would not have signed an Edma work. Further, Mr. Perrault noted that the varnish over the signature area was extremely old, which would mean it was most probably laid down in Morisot’s lifetime.

An hypothesis

It is well documented (Mongan, Higgonet, Shennan) that Berthe Morisot destroyed most of her early works and certainly from her Le Chou period. We know at least one was not destroyed because it was exhibited at the Salon in 1864 (Souvenir au Bord de l'Oise). This work has "disappeared" according to the Catalogue Raisonne (Clairet, Montalent, Rouart).

Morisot destroyed her works because she had demanding standards. So either this work pleased her enough not to be destroyed or it is the work exhibited at the Salon. All the evidence would point to the Salon entry. While we do not know if it was signed at that time or not, it may not have been signed because only well known artists had their works hung "en ligne" or at eye level. The works were crowded to the ceiling, and about 2700 exhibited in poorly lit rooms. It would not be possible to distinguish the signatures of most works, therefore they were irrelevant. Further, the works were catalogued, so people knew the artists of the works they were looking at.

Professor Higonnet thought the work to be too "sketchy" for a Salon entry. However, it should be borne in mind that the Salon committee could have been patronizing to the Morisot sisters (as were the reporters of the period). Also, as students of Corot (the most famous artist of the period) and coming from a bourgeois family, it is likely that friendly influences were at work on the judging committee. Certainly, Edmond About's comments appear to vindicate this work as the Salon entry.

Henri Rouart was a friend of Edgar Degas, and the impressionists in general. He was a collector as well as an amateur artist. He would have been very familiar with Morisots' works, particularly form the Impressionists exhibits which received such notoriety. On a visit to Morisot's studio, many years later (1888 to believe the provenance), Henri Rouart saw the canvas and asked to buy it. (If it was not signed at that time he asked Morisot to sign it which she duly did using whatever brush and paint came to hand). Of course, this scenario is more likely if Rouart had recognized it as the original Salon entry, which would also explain why Morisot did not destroy the work.