By Elizabeth Kostova
Béatrice de Clerval (1851-1910), Impressionist painter, is known for relatively few canvases, many of which are housed in the Musée de Maintenon in Paris, and some of which are held in private collections. A native Parisian who painted intimate family scenes in her suburb home in Passy, as well as landscapes in the nearby Bois de Bolougne and on the coast of Normandy, she apparently ceased her career at the age of twenty-nine.
Her work has been compared to that of Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot in its feel for the lives of women in their domestic settings, and to that of Morisot, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro in its skillful rendering of landscapes, particularly gardens. Like Claude Monet and many others, Clerval was also drawn by the changeable Channel coast, with its various moods of water and sky and its dramatic cliff formations.
Although Clerval excelled at painting people, particularly the female servants who sat for her portraits, she also displayed an affinity for swans, which she observed and sketched in the Bois de Boulogne.
Elizabeth Kostova is the author of the international best seller The Historian and The Swan Thieves. She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.
IMAGE:Woman at Her Toilette, c 1875/80 by Berthe Morisot, Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago