Friday, July 25, 2008
Fine Arts Friday: The Cradle
The Cradle by Berthe Morisot, 1872
I love this painting by Berthe Morisot. We see a mother (Morisot's sister) contemplating her infant. She does not appear worried or fretful. She is just quietly watching her child sleep. What I find singularly wonderful about this painting is the celestial blue in the veil of the cradle and in the curtain behind. I remember looking at my infant daughter as she lay sleeping. Wonder was the feeling that filled me. Heretofore, this tiny beautiful little person did not exist and here she was--filling me with joy at every moment. Where did this miracle come from? And looking at her sleeping in perfect peace, with her little beautiful mouth, and little hands, I felt as if I was brushing the edge of heaven. So I was intrigued by Morisot's choice of heavenly blue to envelope her rendering of a mother's contemplation of her new child. Likewise, the child is behind a veil--we see the miracle of life behind a veil of mystery, but its joy gives us a glimpse of heaven.
Morisot uses the same kinds of celestial blues in her breakthrough painting, The Harbor at L'Orient, painted in 1869, in which she broke out of the brownish, Corot-like mold of her previous paintings and into her own palette. In this case, she added a frontal figure who invites us to look at the harbor through her eyes. Here again, we see two gorgeous tones of blue--in the sky and in the water. I don't know if Morisot's use of these tones is unique--they somehow remind me of Constables skies--but to me they make both The Cradle and The Harbor at L'Orient extraordinary paintings that invite contemplation themselves.
The Harbor at L'Orient, 1869