In the history of arts, a woman has long been deemed the object of gaze and the object of drawing. The bearer of gaze and the drawer was always a man. However, French painter Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) was different; she depicted her husband by utilizing her own perspective, as many male painters drew their wives as their muses.
Morisot was one of the three women who participated in the impressionist exhibitions. Although she could not study at the national art institution, Morisot was brought up in an affluent and artistic environment, where she received a private art education and became a painter. As a descendant of Jean-Honore Fragonard, who was a prolific painter of the late Rococo period, Morisot was selected for exhibition in the Salon de Paris for the first time when she was 23, and was again selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons, whereby she made her name in painting circles. Afterward, Morisot became close to Edouard Manet and joined the Impressionists instead of the highly conservative Salon exhibition. In the winter of 1874, when the first historic Impressionist exhibition was held, Morisot married to Eugene Manet, the brother of Edouard Manet.
‘Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight’ was produced in the Isle of Wight, an island off the south coast of England, where Morisot took a honeymoon trip. The man in the painting was modeled on Morisot’s husband. Eugene was also a painter, but when he realized that his wife had better skills, Eugene chose to support his wife’s career. Eugene, standing by the window of a hotel room, is looking at a girl and a woman standing on the outside. The girl seems to be looking at the sea, while the woman, presumably the mother, is looking at her daughter, and Eugene is looking at the woman. Although their facial expressions are incognizable, the painter captured their gazes and put them in a painting. The flower pots by the window convey the sense of happiness and joy of the people in the painting, adding a light touch to it.
No sensual gaze, which is found in the paintings of wives or female models drawn by male painters, is found in this painting. The painter maintained a warm, keen, observing look and drew mother and daughter at the seaside and the husband. Family and motherly love were the subject matter Morisot was interested in, and it was what made Morisot distinguished from many of her male colleagues. Eugene stood as a model for his wife’s other paintings, just like the other spouses of artists.