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Morisot’s prime reason for accompanying Chaffanjon’s expedition to the source of the Orinoco River was to draw the region’s flora. Therefore, it makes sense that these works are all executed in a larger format and on more substantial paper than the small sketches he made of the topography and culture along the river. He made these delicate and exquisitely detailed works under enormously difficult conditions. In his diary he describes the bugs that devoured his hands while he painted, his attempt to use gloves, and his abandonment of them because they restricted his movement too much.

The watercolors of plants by Morisot in this section possess a finish and stylization that surpasses scientific illustration. In fact, Morisot used some of the rendering of flowers he made during the expedition as the basis of textile designs later, after he had returned to France. Several of the works displayed here were probably done later, after his return. The appearance of the signature “AM,” in which the feet both of the letters of Morisot’s initials meet, supports this theory. This signature can be found on some but not all of the works, and is suggestive of art nouveau, a style which was emerging in France upon the artist’s return and which he utilized in the textile designs that helped establish his reputation in Lyon.

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