The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of March 19, 2018

Reading, 1873

oil on fabric, Framed: 74.3 x 100.3 x 12.1 cm (29 1/4 x 39 7/16 x 4 3/4 in.); Unframed: 46 x 71.8 cm (18 1/16 x 28 1/4 in.). Gift of the Hanna Fund 1950.89

The fashionable woman seated in the foreground is the artist's sister, Edma. However, the painting is not a portrait. Morisot's principal concern was to render a figure in a natural, outdoor environment. Edma's white dress-the prime vehicle for Morisot's study of reflected light-is saturated with delicate lavender, blue, yellow, and rose tonalitites. Deftly executed with quick brushstrokes, the painting resounds with a feeling of freshness, vibrancy and delicate charm. "Every day I pray that the Good Lord will make me like a child," Morisot wrote, "That is to say, that He will make me see nature and render it the way a child would, without preconceptions."
Morisot, the great granddaughter of the 18th-century French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, selected this painting as one of her four works shown in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.

Signed lower right: [black:] B [in red:] erthe M[in black:] orisot Remnants of a signature lower left: B

Paris, Société Anonyme. Première Exposition, Boulevard des Capucines 35 (1874), no. 105, La lecture. Possibly, Kunsthaus Zürich. Französische Kunst des XIX. und XX. Jahrhunderts (1917), no. 142, Dame à l'ombrelle, coll. R. (according to Bataille and Wildenstein 1961 and Clairet et al. 1997, 118, no. 14, "Expositions," the Cleveland painting was in this Zurich exhibition. However, neither dimensions nor a reproduction are given in the catalogue. The initial "R" given after the title of the painting most likely stands for Rouart. This name does not occur in the collection history of the Cleveland painting. The painting exhibited in Zurich is more likely a work from 1881, also called Dame à l'ombrelle [no. 105], which indeed belonged to Rouart). Possibly, Paris, Bernheim-Jeune. Exposition d'oeuvres de Berthe Morisot (1919), no. 3, 1867, Les Petites Dalles (according to Bataille and Wildenstein 1961 and Clairet et al. 1997, if this is indeed the Cleveland painting, then this is the first instance where the early date of 1867 is given). Paris, Bernheim-Jeune. Exposition d'oeuvres de Berthe Morisot (1929), no. 80, L'ombrelle verte, app. à Gabriel Thomas. Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute. French Painting 1100-1900 (1951), no. 107, Sur la falaise aux Petites Dalles, 1873 (repr.). Oberlin, Ohio, Allen Memorial Art Museum. Exhibition of Masterpieces Honoring Hazel Barker King (1952), Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 9 (Supplement 1952): no. 6, Sur la falaise aux Petites Dalles, 1873 (repr.). Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts. La femme dans l'art français (1953), no. 95, Sur la falaise, aux Petites Dalles. C'est le portrait de Mme Pontillon, soeur de l'artiste. Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie. De David à Toulouse-Lautrec: Chefs-d'oeuvres des collections américaines (1955), 20, no. 43, Sur la falaise aux Petites Dalles, 1873, pl. 45. Baltimore Museum of Art. Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Works by Manet, Degas, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt (1962), no. 81, Sur la falaise aux Petites Dalles, 1873 (repr.). Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Past Rediscovered: French Painting 1800-1900 (1969), no. 63, Mlle Pontillon (The Artist's Sister), 1873 (repr.). Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum; South Hadley, Mass., Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Berthe Morisot: Impressionist (1987-88), no. 20, Reading, 1873, 55, 57, 58-59 (repr.), 61. Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art. Paris en 1874: L'année de l'impressionnisme (1994), no. 33 (repr.). Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Maestros del Impresionismo (Masters of Impressionism) 11/17/98 - 2/28/99, pp. 126-127 (repr.).. The Baltimore Museum of Art (10/10/99 - 1/30/00); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (3/25/00 - 5/7/00); The Cleveland Museum of Art (5/28/00 - 7/30/00); "Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from American Collections", exh. cat. no. 45, pp. 25, 30, 128-129, color repr. p. 129. Lille, France. Palais de Beaux-Arts Lille (3/8/2002 - 6/9/2002) and Martigny, Switzerland. Fondation Pierre Gianadda (6/20/2002 - 11/19/2002): "Retrospective Berthe Morisot", exh. cat. no. 15, pp. 131-133. CMA (organizer). Beijing World Art Museum, China, May 26 - Aug. 27, 2006; Mori Arts Center, Tokyo, Japan: Sept. 9 - Nov. 26, 2006; Seoul Arts Center, Seoul, Korea: Dec. 18, 2006 - March 31, 2007; Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea: Apr. 7 - May 20, 2007; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: June 9 - Sept. 16, 2007; Cleveland Museum of Art, Oct. 21, 2007- January 13, 2008; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, Feb. 21-June 1, 2008; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT, June 22 - September 21, 2008; and the Detroit Institute of Arts, MI, October 12, 2008 - January 18, 2009: "Modern Masters from the Cleveland Museum of Art" Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris (3/7/2012 - 7/1/2012): "Berthe Morisot, Woman of our Time" Cleveland Museum of Art (organizer). Tokyo National Museum (1/15/2014 - 2/23/2014) and Kyushu National Museum (7/8/2014 - 8/31/2014): "Admired from Afar: Masterworks of Japanese Painting from the Cleveland Museum of Art", fig. 6, p. 132. The Met Breuer, New York, NY (3/18/2016 - 9/4/2016): "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible"

By 1929-1932 Gabriel Thomas (1851-1932), Paris1
? Édouard Molyneux [1891-1974], Paris
Until 1950 (César de Hauke, Paris, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)
1950- The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH


1A 1929 exhibition lists Gabriel Thomas, Morisot’s first cousin, as the painting’s current owner. Thomas died in 1932, but he is still cited as the painting’s owner in Angoulvent’s 1933 catalogue of Morisot’s oeuvre.


Angoulvent, Monique. Berthe Morisot. [Paris]: A. Morancé, 1933.

Bataille, Marie Louise, and Georges Wildenstein. Berthe Morisot: catalogue des peintures, pastels et aquarelles. Paris: Les Beaux-Arts, 1961.

Bodelsen, Merete. “Early Impressionist Sales 1874-94 in the light of some unpublished ‘procès-verbaux’,” Burlington Magazine CX, no. 783 (June 1968): 335.

Clairet, Alain, Delphine Montalant, and Yves Rouart. Berthe Morisot: 1841-1895 : Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint. Montolivet: CERA-nrs éd, 1998.

Lindsay, Suzanne Glover. “Berthe Morisot: Nineteenth-Century Woman as Professional,” Perspectives on Morisot. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990.

d'Argencourt, Louise, Roger Diederen, and Alisa Luxenberg. European Paintings of the 19th Century. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999.

The provenance research on this object is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Library materials about Morisot (47)

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