Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Painting of the Week: Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, detail

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she became friends with Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists as one of “les trois grandes dames” (the three great ladies). She was famous for creating images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is one of her most important works. The painting was possibly shown at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition 1879 as Portrait de petite fille. At that time Cassatt was in conflict with the official French art establishment and had her submissions rejected by the official Salon. It was no deal for her when Edgar Degas invited her to join the Impressionists.

Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington

The dog pictured lying in the armchair next to the little girl in Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is a Brussels Griffon. It was Degas who presented her with a pup he had procured from fellow Impressionist Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, a dog lover who bred them, and Cassatt went on to keep them for the rest of her life. Degas also had another contribution to the painting – recent cleaning and infra-red photography at the National Gallery of Art has confirmed Degas did some reworks on the piece.


The girl herself was the daughter of a friend of Degas’s. By that time Degas and Cassatt certainly had much in common. Both were born into the upper-middle-class, the children of bankers, and both had strong connections to America. Degas’s mother and grandmother were American and he had stayed with his family in New Orleans in 1872-3. Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania and spent four years studying at the Pennsylvanian Academy of the Fine Arts.

The similarities in their work are also visible: in the composition, the casual, unposed treatment of the sitter, as well as the interest in the private moment.

Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, detail


The painting, dazzling with its predominant hue of deep turquoise, was purchased from the artist by Ambroise Vollard of Paris around 1903 for his gallery, and was later acquired by Hector Brame of Paris. It was sold in 1963 to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. They lent it to the National Gallery of Art for exhibitions and eventually gifted it in 1983 to NGA.

For Griselda Pollock, a visual theorist, cultural analyst and scholar of international, postcolonial feminist studies in the visual arts, it is one of the most radical images of childhood of the time. It may be true. Cassatt herself once wrote: “I love to paint children. They are so natural and truthful.”

Mary Cassatt Little Girl in a Blue Armchair Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, detail

Find out more:

.  .  


Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

Comments

More in Painting of the Week

  • 20th century

    Impressionism Features in Bombay Progressive Artists Group

    By

    Progressive Artists Group (PAG) was an answer to the existing Indian institutional structure of exhibitions in the mid-20th century. It was a collective primarily formed by FN Souza, SH Raza, KH Ara, HA Gade, MF Hussain and Sadanand Bakre. Later, Vasudeo Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta,...

  • Impressionism

    Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls: The Life and Business of Agostina Segatori

    By

    Agostina Segatori’s face is most widely recognized in the works of key artists between 1860 and 1887. Her Italian features inspired many painters in Paris at the time, leading to an enviable career. However, her achievements are far greater than her modelling success. Navigating the web...

  • Artist

    Lise Tréhot. The Mysterious Beauty from Renoir’s Paintings

    By

    Born into a humble French family, Lise Tréhot (1848–1922) was an artist’s model who posed exclusively for Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919). Lise posed for almost all of the female figures depicted by Renoir from 1866 until 1872. Incidentally, it was Clémence Tréhot, Lise’s older sister and lover...

  • Impressionism

    Four Women Impressionists You Shouldn’t Forget

    By

    Impressionism is not only limited to Monet, Renoir, and Degas. There were four women Impressionists who were all the members of the same circle and exhibited works that were as innovative as those of their male counterparts: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, and Marie Bracquemond....

  • Artists' Stories

    5 Impressionist Gossips Which Will Make You Feel They Staged a Soap Opera

    By

    I know, it is a bit rude to discuss private lives of people. But when it comes to the Impressionists, knowing their relationships, connections, sudden twists of fate, and often difficult characters makes the whole story about them much more interesting. And we can see them...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy