My Daughter Looks Like A Peasant Girl
Seasonal depression affected the most talented artists. The more talent they had, the more likely they were to be felled to their knees by this phenomenon. Then as now, it was the worst winter in recorded history. People always have the tendency to exaggerate the horrors of the most recent snow.
The letters of Berthe Morisot and her friend Claude Monet during this period are unmistakably gloomy. It was the dark surroundings that moved the two artists to write to each other at all, for if the weather was at all better, they would have seen one another in person.
I have learned that you are ill and that I might have been the cause of this. I should be very happy to hear that everyone is well now, but I do believe that the terrible winter you have had was the real cause of this nasty grippe. Here we had the backlash of the cold spell, and during two weeks the weather was frightful, quite unbearable.
Fortunately the sun quickly gets the upper hand here.
I am working a great deal; I am having great difficulties, but I dare not yet say that I am satisfied, for another period of bad days might spoil everything I have undertaken.
Moreover it is so difficult, so tender, and so delicate – particularly for me who is inclined to go about things violently. The truth is I am making a great effort. I do not expect to return before April – just in time for our exhibition. I hope that you have been able to work, and I urge you to prepare as many entries as possible. There will doubtless be fewer of us than last year, and for that very reason it is imperative that the exhibition be all the better.
Renoir is near Marseille, at Martigues. I have not heard from him for a long time, but he seemed satisfied with the place. Unfortunately I fear for him that he has had worse weather than we are.
Excuse this interminable scrawl.
My dear Monet,
I think you are very kind to reproach yourself on my account. The real truth is that the bad weather and my age are the only causes of my illness. I am becoming a bronchial old lady. At last I am on my feet again, and engaged in a war with my canvases. Do not depend on me to cover much wall space. I am not doing anything worthwhile despite my desire to do it.
The endless series of dark days we are having this year is an added obstacle. Your sun makes me envious, as do other things.
You are being coy, but I well know that you are in good form, that you are doing delightful things, and I hope as much from Renoir, for it is you two who will make the exhibition.
The other day, at the older Goupil’s, I saw pictures by Pissarro that are much less pointillist, and very beautiful. It seem to me that they might be liked. I went there to see the nudes of that fierce Degas, which are becoming more and more extraordinary.
I thought that the winter here would be beautiful, and I anticipated the pleasure of doing effects of snow or frost, but the weather has been uninterruptedly atrocious, and what is worse, changing, so that I have done nothing good, and now it is too late for me to go away.
I am counting on the first beautiful spring days to catch up, but while waiting I do nothing but fret.
I have nothing of great interest to tell you. I go to Paris less and less frequently, and anyhow people there are only engrossed in politics. There are always the same exhibitions; your humble servant has also his own, quite unpretentious, at Van Gogh’s, but the public pays it no marked attention.
My dear Monet,
Your letter has given me all the more pleasure because I was beginning to think you had forgotten me.
I had hoped throughout the winter that you would come somewhere in this region, or even, despite your prejudes against Nice, to the villa Ratti. I am in a delightful place which you could have put to good use. I do not. I am working a great deal, but nothing comes of it. It is horribly difficult.
I know through Mallarmé that you have marvels at Van Gogh’s, and indeed I regret that I am not there to see them.
I shall make up for this by going to see you on my return. This will not be before the beginning of May. I am so comfortable here, and the country is so delightful, that the only thing I miss about Paris is my friends. My husband is very much better, my daughter looks like a peasant girl, and since we won’t budge throughout the summer, I feel that it is better to take as much advantage as possible of the spring days.
We shall be very happy to see you with your husband and your friend Malalarme, and I hope you will raise my spirits a little, for I am in a state of complete discouragement. This fiendish painting has me on the rack, and I cannot do a thing. All I accomplish is to scrape out and ruin my canvases. I realize that having gone a long time without doing anything I should have expected this, but what I am doing is beneath anything.
My dear Monet,
It is true that I appear to have forgotten you, but this is only an appearance, for I have thought of you a great deal throughout the week of the reopening of the Luxembourg, and every morning I hoped you would come to dinner. It is this hope that stopped me from giving you my impressions as soon as possible; and I owed them to you.
Incidentally, they are absolutely identical with yours, as regards both the ‘Olympia’ and that strange museum devoted to French art. It seems to me impossible that the ‘Olympia’ should not be transferred to the Louvre, for this painting is simply admirable, and the public seem to be beginning to realize this. At all events we have come a long way from the kind of stupid jokes that used to be made about the picture.
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