Gonzalès’s father was the novelist and playwright Emmanuel Gonzalès, and he too provided a nurturing environment. Originally Eva trained with the academic painter Charles Chaplin, and women were able to study in private studios, paying for their tuition, although access to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts was denied to them until the end of the nineteenth century. When she met Édouard Manet he was captivated by her appearance and intelligence, and she became his only pupil, much to Morisot’s chagrin.
Manet is the point of connection between these two artists. Morisot had met Manet while copying in the Louvre, under the eagle-eyed chaperonage of her mother. The two families came from a similar background, and socialised frequently. Manet was drawn to Morisot’s beauty, and began a series of paintings of her in the late 1860s and early 1870s, large and small, in a variety of roles.
Morisot was more than Manet’s muse. He admired her work and her commitment to painting outdoors, and learned from her. She did not always appreciate his attempts to correct and change her paintings, since from early in her career she regarded herself as a professional artist, not merely a gifted amateur. In 1874 she became Manet’s sister-in-law, when she married his brother Eugène.
Manet’s large portrait of Eva Gonzalès, now in the National Gallery, was painted in 1870, and aroused strong feelings in Morisot. Her sister Edma wrote: ‘The thought of Mademoiselle Gonzalès irritates me, I do not know why. I imagine that Manet greatly overestimates her, and that we, or rather you, have as much talent as she…’ Morisot admitted that ‘Manet has never done anything as good as his portrait of Mademoiselle Gonzalès; it is perhaps even more charming now than when you saw it.’ There is no evidence of a close relationship between the two women, and although Gonzalès is often labelled an Impressionist (a term which is much more widely used today than it used to be) Gonzalès did not take part in any of the eight Impressionist exhibitions. Like Manet, she did not choose to consider herself an Impressionist.
Manet believed that the Salon was ‘the real field of battle’, and resisted all attempts to persuade him to join the Impressionists’ ranks, and Gonzalès was also not tempted. She did not subscribe to the aesthetic of plein-air painting, although she shared a belief in depicting the subject matter of modern life. While to Morisot this largely meant paintings of her family and friends, Gonzalès was often drawn to images of the theatre and the street.
Morisot’s two paintings in the Odrupgaard collection are characteristic of two phases of her painting career. Woman with a Fan (Portrait of Madame Marie Hubbard), shown at the very top of this page, was made in 1874, the year of the first Impressionist exhibition. It shows a close friend of her mother’s, casually reclining, wearing a delicate white peignoir and holding a fan. The handling of the texture of the garment shows the subtlety of Morisot’s approach, while the painting conveys something of the longeurs of the life of a woman of this class. The Young Woman on the Grass, the Red Bodice (Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert) shown above was painted eleven years later, and shows an adolescent girl whom Morisot used as a model on several occasions. Positioned close to the viewer, she looks off to the side. Her red jacket contrasts vividly with the green background, and the brushstrokes are broader than in the earlier painting. The pansies (pensées) and the bird cage behind her suggest that she is contemplating her future.