There’s a certain shape or shadow camouflaged
in some of Berthe Morisot’s work
that might suggest she suffered a deep, maternal loss.
comment from an observer
Her brother-in law portrayed her
lounging against a red wall, bold
as the red apple meant to poison Snow-white
or the radishes that haunted a mother’s craving
and enslaved Rapunzel to a witch.
She was uncomfortable with the color
and used it sparingly in her own paintings,
Her husband laughed when he saw journal cartoons
warning that pregnant women
should not attend Impressionist shows
because they might cause a miscarriage. He then pointed to his wife
bragging how she flirted with brush and light
and still gave birth to a healthy child. Like him,
she claimed the critics were fools
but felt nauseous, unnerved by their prediction. At night
Her mind workshopped colors into sleep while the body relaxed
on a sofa. She dreamed she was spilling a basket of flowers
on canvas. Mint-green buds, pale peonies and spreading underneath
sprays of Spanish Flag. Its scarlet bloom was layered like the still
and flattened wings of a bird. She awoke abruptly with a craving for salt.
Note: Berthe Morrisot was a woman artist in a the world of male Impressionism. She was not taken seriously by the critics or the art salons of her day — only by some of her fellow colleagues. At the time, the established society of journalists, art critics and so forth, felt a woman’s place was in the home and that seeking any creative or artistic ambitions outside of that realm would be considered immoral and nonsensical. Some critic even warned that by merely attending Impressionist art shows, a woman’s body could become nervous enough to miscarry a child. Berthe morrisot was married to the brother of Edouard Manet, Eugene. Though both men encouraged her art and her artistic endeavors, she was still unsettled in a world of male-dominated art and had inner fears and securities about her place there and talent. Though she did have one healthy child there was no evidence of another or a chronicled miscarriage but then that has surmised. Who really knows and as the anonymous observer points out, there seemed to be nuances or hits of that possibility in some of her paintings.