Pigment

Berthem 

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.

 

8 comments

  1. In the painting, her eyes have a haunted look to them. It’s odd the way things get started; probably some woman, somewhere, sometime had a miscarriage after attending such an exhibition – and suddenly, all women are in danger of the same fate. This is well written, and carries her story well.

    Like

    • Dear Michael

      thanks so much for reading and commenting on this poem! I deeply appreciate your time and your thoughtful insight. I think you may be right, if it some how randomly happened to one woman it could be used as a convenient excuse by others, namely husbands, fathers etc. to keep their women from the more Bohemian and liberating world of art. And in the women themselves, they have bought into this fear and blamed any miscarriage on such an event.

      Again thanks!
      Wendy

      Like

  2. Wendy,

    I had not known of Berthe Marisot. The painting is intriguing; your words
    make it unforgettable.

    “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.”

    Those lines touched me to the core.They spill beauty and sorrow
    into the psyche. They are as haunting as her bottomless eyes.

    Brava!!

    Sarah

    . .

    Like

    • Hi Sarah

      So glad you enjoyed this one! Just like the women artists of the Pre-raphaelite movement in England in the Mid to late 19th century. Berthe Morrisot struggled to balance her traditional role with that of a talented and creative artist. She had one daughter whom she adored and went on to paint several pictures of her along with other women and scenes. But as I suggested in this poem, I think she may have feared the magnitude of her work, the demands of art and that possibly leading one day to a miscarriage. I took artistic liberty and suggested she feared the color red and dreamed of the flowers as the flattened wings of a dead bird signifying that something may also be dying within her. Her work is worth viewing. I think her paintings are just as beautiful as Manet and Monet. But of course, that is my humble opinion. Thanks again so much for commenting and letting me know what you thnk!! I deeply appreciate it!

      My best always,
      wEndy

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wendy,

        Thanks…I love learning new things and shall look for her work. You always give us so much with your poetry.

        Hoping the holiday season is bringing you blessings and will continue to do so!!

        Sarah

        Like

  3. Sarah

    Here’s a link to her biio and many of her paintings. Look for one called “Julie daydreaming”. It is the portrait of her real life daughter.

    https://www.wikiart.org/en/berthe-morisot

    THank you so much for the lovely holiday wishes. I send you and your family as well wishes of a joyous Christmas and blessed New Year!

    Take care
    Wendy

    Like

    • Thanks so much Craig,

      Glad you enjoyed the poem, pic and link. She is definitely a fascinating lady and artist. I appreciate your input!

      my best
      Wendy

      Like

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