Berthe Morisot: Hanging the Laundry out to Dry

Hanging the Laundry out to Dry: Berthe Morisot

Hanging the Laundry out to Dry is an 1875 painting in the Impressionist style by the leading female French artist Berthe Morisot. This work is located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States.

Analysis of Morisot’s Hanging the Laundry out to Dry

Hanging the Laundry out to Dry by Berthe Morisot appeared at the Second Impressionist Exhibition and is a landscape focused on human life. One of the few exhibiting female Impressionists, Berthe Morisot tended to prefer intimate domestic themes in her work, often painting mothers and children or servants as seen in Hanging the Laundry out to Dry from 1875.

She studied under Camille Corot of the Barbizon School, from whom she learned to paint outdoors, or en plein air. An overall tranquil scene, this 1875 landscape is above all a study of light and color. Also worth noting is the incredibly subtle indication of movement that the artist conveys through the clothes gently waving in the breeze and the abrupt change to long, horizontal brushstrokes in the area of open grass in the middle ground.

We are seeing an outer suburb of Paris, Gennevilliers, as it appeared at the end of the 19th century when it was becoming the target of the capital’s urban sprawl. The house with the many fences and a budding garden is of recent build and the people we see are presumably suburban newcomers.

Two Parisian chimneys, likely those of factories, are emitting fumes in the distance, witnesses of Industrialisation. The champaign in the medium distance looks reassuringly green, in two tonalities. In fact, the entirety of this picture’s setting breathes country air: in the foreground, too, we notice garden trees (on the right) and worked-over plots of land.

Berthe Morisot’s interest is in what the suburban, middle-class people are making of their new home in the city. She has portrayed the prosaic event of a family’s laundry having been put out to dry. It has been hung on the fence that we see bordering the entire plot of land, and it has been strewn abundantly over several lines of fence-like rigs all over this allotment of land to the left of the house. The rigs are most likely supports that will soon be used to prop up a series of cultivations. Meanwhile, they have been used to dry all the washing.

The painting is a display of Berthe Morisot’s painterly interests within the framework of her Impressionism.

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