Berthe Morisot was the first woman who joined the community of French impressionists. Nowadays, she is considered one of the most significant woman painters of the end of 19th century. Her close friendship with Edouard Manet influenced considerably her style and encouraged Morisot for her artistic experiments. The painting Young Woman Knitting was created in 1883. In this work of art, Berthe Morisot uses an original impressionist technique of rapid short strokes and mostly pastel color palette to convey a peaceful and serene ambiance of this painting.
Berthe Morisot was born in a family of culture and prosperity; she was raised highly educated and capable of sensing and appreciating the beauty. Her inner sense of sophistication and intelligence made her able noticing loveliness, elegance and refinement in the everyday scenes. So, in 1860s, the painter starts to find subjects for her works in domestic life that surrounded her. She painted portraits of family, friends, and domestic settings. It should be noted that the place of a woman in the modern life captured her attention, in particular. At this time exactly, Berthe Morisot started to work intensely creating the works of art that depicted the scenes of contemporary femininity. The painting Young Woman Knitting is one of these works.
When the viewer takes the first glance at this canvas, he/she might absolutely notice the vivid contrast of colors, which seems to divide the painting by half on the diagonal. The green color of the garden behind the main figure signally contrasts with the pastel palette of the rest of the painting. Due to the contrast, the composition seems to be well-balanced.
There is one character in this work – it is a figure of a woman sitting in the chair with her knitting. Being the only person in this painting, it seems like she has to be much more visualized and emphasized, especially that she is the reason that the painting is titled Young Woman Knitting. However, the main part of her body, her costume, and hands doing the knitting are executed using the same pastel colors as for the ground. Only her head and shoulders stand out against the green background of the garden. Still, the woman figure is a focal point on this canvas because she incarnates the idea of calm and serene happiness. Using the pastel color, the artist wanted to accentuate the tenderness and delicacy of a woman nature. Knitting in the woman’s hands is another metaphor for that. Everything that a woman does or make is light, beautiful and fragile. Beige, white colors of the dress bring on the impression of the restraint and modesty. The light pink hue of the skirt adds some affectivity and feminine charm to the image. The green color, on the other hand, is vivid and quite intense. It gives the viewer the impression that the discreetness of the figure’s character contrasts with the vivacity of the nature. However, it seems like the artist meant to make such a distinct contrast of the colors to emphasize that this woman is not bored or disappointed with her life; she is just calm and serene doing her knitting.
Young Woman Knitting is painted using a special technique of the impressionists. There is no transparency on this canvas. The rapid thick strokes that seem to be quickly superimposed on each other create the impression opaque painting surface. The short strokes executed mostly in one direction are very expressive. They aim to capture the essence of the scene without concentrating on details. Consequently, the viewer cannot see distinctly the face of a woman; he is not even sure if this woman is young. The title of the painting and her smooth proud posture are the only proves of that.
Considering the particularities of the impressionist technique, the shape of the objects of the painting are not very distinct; they seem to be blurry. However, the two chairs on the first plan of the canvas are painted with much more accuracy. The second empty chair near the young woman on the work, certainly, stands out against the ground that it is placed on. It brings on the idea of a second person being there in the garden. Maybe, it was another woman doing her knitting too. It could be a sister or mother of the young woman. The presence of the second chair just confirms the idea of the peacefulness and tranquility of this painting. The illusionistic space of this work of art makes the viewer feel like the time passes on this canvas. The time passes slowly and does not bring any surprises.
In the painting Young Woman Knitting, Berthe Morisot used all her talent and artistic view to create an incredible work. Due to the pastel palette, contrast of colors, and special technique she managed to convey the atmosphere of serene happiness of this painting.
About the author: Thony Wilson is a master in English philology and histoty at California University. Tony is currently working as one of the best writers at He also studies feminine psychology.