Princeton Magazine, Summer 2021
Masterpiece of Impressionism by Mary Cassatt Joins Collection of Princeton University Art Museum
PRINCETON, N.J. – The Princeton University Art Museum has acquired Mary Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Large Red Hat (ca. 1881), an exceptionally insightful portrayal of young girlhood and a masterpiece of Impressionist painting. Dating from the early peak of Cassatt’s career, as she fully assimilated the Impressionist style that informed her strongest work, the canvas is distinguished by its painterly characterization, depicting the artist’s signature subject of a young girl with both compellingly revealed technique and psychological complexity.
“A work such as this one, which comes from the final years when the artist was exhibiting with the Impressionists in Paris, not only tells us so much about process and technique but also allows us to engage with important questions about how a woman artist made her way in the patriarchal art world of the time,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “This extraordinary painting will be able to move fluidly among galleries devoted to European or American art as part of the new Museum we are in the process of shaping.”
Born near Pittsburgh in 1844, Cassatt lived and worked primarily in France. She was one of the few women artists invited to join the Impressionist exhibitions and focused on portrayals of women and children in domestic settings.
Little Girl in a Large Red Hat was likely painted in Paris or its immediate environs, where Cassatt spent the summers of 1880 through 1882. The sophisticated image incorporates an engaging tension between the finished head and brushier body and background, an emerging hallmark of the artist’s work. Cassatt was a strong supporter of women’s rights, and the subject of this portrait conveys her interest and belief in an individual girl’s depth, agency and potential. It was hailed in 1998 by the art historian Griselda Pollock as one of a series of powerful confrontations between the artist and the subject of the young girl.
The work is the first painting by Cassatt to enter the Museum’s collections, which include a pastel masterpiece and ten drawings and prints by the artist.
Princeton holds one of the most extensive collections of historical American art of any university museum. Additions to the collections, acquired in part through an endowed fund dedicated to the purchase of American art, have recently included notable works by African American and Native American artists and modernist, still life, landscape, portrait and genre paintings as well as works of decorative art.
About the Princeton University Art Museum
With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include more than 112,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.
Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. The Museum galleries and its satellite gallery space, Art@Bainbridge, are temporarily closed. A landmark new Museum building, designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, is slated to open in late 2024.
Please visit the Museum’s website for digital access to the collections, a diverse portfolio of virtual programs and updates on opportunities to visit in person. The Museum Store in Palmer Square, located at 56 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton, is open daily, or shop online at princetonmuseumstore.org.
For more information: artmuseum.princeton.edu.
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Princeton University Art Museum
Amber Hendrickson, Blue Water Communications
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