The Port of Nice


Berthe Morisot ( French, 1841 - 1895 )

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General Description

Berthe Morisot spent the winter of 1881–1882 with her family on the Mediterranean coast in Nice, France. As she often did while traveling, Morisot brought along her plein-air (outdoor) painting kit and worked outside when the weather permitted. The city’s port, a sheltered marina filled with boats (fig. 1), became the subject of eight watercolors and oil paintings the artist completed during her stay.

The example of this subject from the Reves Collection exemplifies the bold, almost abstract style that distinguishes Morisot from the French Impressionist group she helped to found. To avoid onlookers on the crowded dock, she painted aboard a boat in the harbor. Morisot’s rapid application of fluid, gestural brushstrokes simulates the effect of lapping waves and dancing light on the water’s surface.

More than any of her contemporaries, Morisot deliberately pushed the boundary between preparatory sketch and completed painting in her work. Her inclusion of a similar painting in the 7th Impressionist Exhibition of 1882 was harshly criticized for its perceived lack of finish. One journalist declared, “when one has, like her, good sense and talent, one mustn’t make fun of the public like this.”

Excerpt from

Nicole Myers, label text, 2018.

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