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Yves and Paule at the balcony...

In my lecture on the friendship between Berthe Morisot and Stéphane Mallarmé, I show this painting by Berthe Morisot, produced in 1872 and currently exhibited at the Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo.

It is probably Yves Gobillard, née Morisot, the eldest of Berthe's two sisters.

Beside her, her daughter Paule, nicknamed Bichette, whose sister Jeannie was to marry 24 years later the writer and poet Paul Valéry.

Berthe Morisot. Yves Gobillard et sa fille Paule au balcon. 1872. Bridgestone Museum of Art. Tokyo
Berthe Morisot. Yves Gobillard et sa fille Paule au balcon. 1872. Bridgestone Museum of Art. Tokyo

The setting is the balcony of the Morisot house, rue Benjamin Franklin, near the Palais de Chaillot, in one of the western districts of Paris. In the background you can see the Alma bridge crossing the Seine, the dome of the Invalides, the Trocádero gardens and the Champ-de-Mars park. The brushstrokes are quick and forceful, but every detail has been carefully rendered.

Painting this scene was not easy for Berthe Morisot, as she explained in a letter to her sister Edma: "I do Yves with Bichette; they give me a lot of trouble and become terribly heavy with the work; then as an arrangement, it looks like a Manet; I realize and am annoyed."

Édouard Manet. Le Chemin de fer. 1873. National Gallery of Art. Washington D.C.
Édouard Manet. Le Chemin de fer. 1873. National Gallery of Art. Washington D.C.

It looks like a Manet… Indeed, one cannot help but think of the portrait of Victorine Meurent and the daughter of Alphonse Hirsch by Edouard Manet in front of the railroad gate.

After the disappearance of her mother Yves and her aunt Berthe, Paule Gobillard will live rue de Villejust with her sister Jeannie and her cousin Julie Manet, whose guardian is the poet Stéphane Mallarmé.

Stéphane Mallarmé et Paule Gobillard sous un tableau d'Édouard Manet 1895Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Stéphane Mallarmé et Paule Gobillard sous un tableau d'Édouard Manet 1895Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

She went to live with her sister Jeannie after the latter married Paul Valéry in 1900. Remaining single, Paule devoted herself entirely to painting and produced paintings clearly influenced by the style of Berthe Morisot.

Paule Gobillard. Jeannie Gobillard et son fils Claude. 1910. Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris. Petit-Palais
Paule Gobillard. Jeannie Gobillard et son fils Claude. 1910. Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris. Petit-Palais

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...




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