One of America’s leading expatriate artists, Mary Cassatt settled in Paris in 1874, where she was greatly influenced by the pastels of her friend and mentor Edgar Degas. Pastel was described as Mary Cassatt’s "specific genre" in a review written in November 1889, by which time she had mastered the exacting technique of drawing with colored chalk, fully exploiting the medium’s painterly and spontaneous qualities. In this superb example, she depicts a seated, fashionably dressed woman with arm bent and elbow resting on the back of a cushioned chair. Cassatt’s bold strokes on the bonnet and colorful upholstery enliven these inanimate surfaces and offset the higher degree of finish on the woman’s face. The work relates to two others in which the identical model is shown arranging the veil of the black and green bonnet or sewing. Here, the focus is entirely on her pensive state. Since she is shown with hat and gloves, the environment is ambiguously public. This is neither one of Cassatt’s contemplative women reposing at home, nor one of Degas’s female subjects posing before the mirror at the milliner’s. While Cassatt’s sitters typically avoid the viewer’s gaze, here the total concealment of the woman’s eyes by her bonnet pays deference to her psychological privacy.
Signed in pastel, bottom right: Mary Cassatt
One of America's leading expatriate artists, Mary Cassatt settled in Paris in 1874, where she was greatly influenced by the pastels of her friend and mentor Edgar Degas. She fully exploited the medium's painterly and spontaneous qualities as exemplified by this image of a fashionably dressed woman caught in a moment of repose or reverie. Cassatt's bold strokes on the bonnet and colorful upholstery enliven these inanimate surfaces and offset the higher degree of finish on the woman's face. Her concealed eyes convey a sense of psychological privacy.
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Christopher Lloyd, Impressionism: pastels, watercolors, drawings, (Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2011).
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).
John Wilmerding et al., American Art in the Princeton University Art Museum: volume 1: drawings and watercolors,(Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum; New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2004).
Nancy Mowll Mathews, Cassatt, a Retrospective, (New York?: H.L. Levin Associates, 1996).
Barbara T. Ross, American Drawings in the Art Museum, Princeton University: 130 Selected Examples (Princeton: Art Museum, Princeton University, 1976).
Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, Mary Cassatt: a catalogue raisonné of the oils, pastels, watercolors, and drawings, (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970).
"Acquisitions," Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 13, no. 2, (1954): p. 62-63.
West to Wesselmann: American Drawings and Watercolors from the Princeton University Art Museum (Saturday, October 16, 2004 - Sunday, July 23, 2006)
American Drawings In The Art Museum, Princeton University (October 3, 1976 - November 28, 1976)