In an 1876 review, a sarcastic critic referred to participants in the second Impressionist exhibition as "five or six lunatics—among them a woman—a group of unfortunate creatures." Berthe Morisot is the woman to whom he alluded. Morisot, an original member of the group, showed in seven of its eight exhibitions and contributed financially to sustain the impressionist movement. The Mother and Sister of the Artist, one of Morisot's largest works, was exhibited at the Salon of 1870 and perhaps again in 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition.
The painting, a family portrait and an intimate domestic genre scene, was begun when Morisot's sister Edma Pontillon stayed with her family in the winter of 1869–1870 to await the birth of her first child, a pregnancy discreetly disguised by Edma's loose white morning robe. Anxious about sending the painting to the Salon, Morisot solicited Manet's advice, and on the last day for submissions he visited the Morisot home. Morisot's correspondence reveals that, rather than offer verbal suggestions, Manet extensively repainted the figure of the artist's mother. Manet's suave shorthand, seen in the mother's features and black dress, differs obviously from the nervous refinement of Morisot's touch in her sister's features, the floral upholstery, and the reflections in the mirror over Edma's head.
Marks and Labels
Mme Pontillon, sister of the artist, Paris; her daughter, Mme Forget, Paris; (Paul Rosenberg, Paris); sold 15 May 1930 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.
- Salon of 1870, Paris, no. 2039
- Possibly Première Exposition, Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculptuers, Graveurs, etc. [First Impressionist Exhibition], Paris, 1874, no. 105, as La Lecture
- Cent Oeuvres de Berthe Morisot, Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris, 1919, no. 5
- Berthe Morisot, Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris, 1929, no. 27
- Portraits of Women Loan Exhibition: Romanticism to Surrealism, Museum of French Art, New York, 1931, no. 17, as Portrait, Mme. Morisot and her daughter, Mme. Pontillon.
- L'Impressionisme, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1935, no. 50
- The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
- The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986 [shown in Washington only]
- From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Fourreau, Armand. Berthe Morisot. Paris, 1925:33, repro.
- Catalogue of French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 10, repro. pl. XVIII
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 47, repro.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 47, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 158, color repro.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 55, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 99.
- Rouart, Denis, ed. The Correspondence of Berthe Morisot. London, 195740+
- Bataille, Marie-Louise and Georges Wildenstein. Berthe Morisot: Catalogue des peintures, pastels et aquarelles. Paris, 1961: no. 20, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 258, repro.
- Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 87, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 94
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:428, color repro.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 83, repro.
- Rewald, John. The History of Impressionism. New York, 1973:241, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 248, repro.
- Munsterberg, Hugo. A History of Women Artists. New York, 1975:53, repro.
- Petersen, Karen and J.J. Wilson. Women Artists: Recognition and Reappraisal From the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. New York, 1976:90, repro.
- Fine, Elsa Honig. Women & Art: A History of Women Painters and Sculptors from the Renaissance to the 20th Century. London, 1978:124+, repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 87, pl. 52.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 456, no. 659, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 286, repro.
- Buettner, Stuart. "Images of Modern Motherhood in the Art of Morisot, Cassatt, Modersohn-Becker, Kollwitz." Woman's Art Journal 7, no. 2 (Fall 1986-Winter 1987):16+, repro.
- Garb, Tamar. Women Impressionists. New York, 1986:62, repro.
- Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 163, color repro.
- Higonnet, Anne. Berthe Morisot's Images of Women. Harvard University Press, 1992:67, repro.
- Langer, Cassandra. Mother and Child in Art. New York, 1992
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 187, repro.
- Denisoff, Dennis. "The Rare Space of the Female Artist: Impressionism in Audrey Thomas's Latakia." Mosaic: The Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 26, no. 4 (Fall 1993):79, repro.
- Nord, Philip. The Republican Moment: Struggles for Democracy in Nineteenth-Century France. Harvard University Press, 1995:repro
- Roos, Jane Mayo. Early Impressionism and the French State (1866-1874). Cambridge, 1996: 139-140, 143, fig. 106.
- Faxon, Alicia Craig. "Reading." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography. 2 vols. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. Chicago and London, 1998: 2:768.
- Gersch-Nešic, Beth. “Pregnancy." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:754.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 380, no. 313, color repro.