Paintings by Mary Cassatt


Mary Cassatt was the only American invited to join the Impressionist painters. Cassatt's introduction to the group came after Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas noticed her work in the official Salon, and Degas was able to convince Mary Cassatt to join the Impressionists in time for the fourth exhibition. Cassatt submitted several works to that show, including her famous painting Woman Reading.

Though Mary Cassatt declined to participate in the seventh Impressionist exhibition -- in support of Edgar Degas, who had withdrawn due to an internal dispute -- Cassatt was generally a consistent presence in the Impressionists' exhibitions from the fourth onward. Throughout Mary Cassatt's career her intimate portrayal of women's lives added a dimension to the subject of female modern life pioneered by Berthe Morisot. Through the course of the exhibitions, Mary Cassatt would remain the sole American participant.

Follow the links below to learn more about paintings by Mary Cassatt, the American painter one contemporary critic called "exquisitely Parisian."

  • Woman Reading: Woman Reading by Mary Cassatt is typical of her interest in the daily lives of women. Learn about Mary Cassatt's 1878 painting, Woman Reading.
  • Five O'Clock Tea: Mary Cassatt's 1880 work Five O'Clock Tea depicts two women sharing a quiet moment. Learn about Cassatt's Five O'Clock Tea, which was praised by critics for its freshness.
  • The Cup of Tea: Works such as Cassatt's The Cup of Tea established her as essentially French in the eyes of the critics. Learn about this Impressionist painting by Mary Cassatt.
  • Young Woman Sewing in a Garden: Young Woman Sewing in a Garden caused some critics to compare Mary Cassatt to Edgar Degas. Read about Young Woman Sewing in a Garden, which Cassatt painted between 1880-1882.
  • Children Playing on the Beach: Cassatt's Children Playing on the Beach established the artist as one of the foremost chroniclers of children in the Impressionist movement. Learn about Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt.
  • The Child's Bath: The Child's Bath reflects Mary Cassatt's later interest in Japanese art. Read about The Child's Bath, by Mary Cassatt, which blends Japanese and European aesthetics.

On the next page, you'll find a detailed look at one of the paintings Mary Cassatt submitted to the Impressionists' fourth exhibition.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

Woman Reading by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt's Woman Reading (oil on canvas, 32-1/4x Art Museum
Mary Cassatt's Woman Reading (oil on canvas, 32-1/4x Art Museum

Mary Cassatt's 1874 work Woman Reading was part of her first exhibition with the Impressionists. Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas saw a work by Cassatt at the official Salon, and a few years later he urged her to exhibit with the Impressionists. She became the first and only American in the circle. In paintings such as Woman Reading, Mary Cassatt con­centrated on the seemingly simple daily activities of a middle-class woman's life: welcoming friends for tea, answering letters, and reading. The critics found Mary Cassatt's work fresh and real, demonstrative of her mastery of color as well as the domestic subject.

For another example of Mary Cassatt's interest in capturing the lives of middle-class women, go to the next page.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt

Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, 25-1/2x of Fine Arts.
Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, 25-1/2x of Fine Arts.

In paintings such as the 1880 work Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt, keen observation of accidental gestures gave the scenes freshness and immediacy. In Five O'Clock Tea, two women gaze out to the right of the composition, as if they were looking at someone just beyond the limits of the canvas. Mary Cassatt captures the guest -- still wearing her hat and gloves -- taking a sip of tea, which blocks a full view of her face.

As Cassatt's career progressed, her works attained an intimacy and poignancy unrivaled by her contemporaries. On the next page we'll see a good example of this.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt

The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, 36-3/8x Museum of Art
The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, 36-3/8x Museum of Art

The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt was painted in 1879, after she had become established in the circle of French Impressionists. While some critics were uncertain as to whether Cassatt was English or American, the writer Gustave Geffroy declared that she was "exquisitely Parisian." He singled The Cup of Tea out as his favorite in the exhibition for its nuance of color and delicate play of light on sumptuous surfaces. Joris-Karl Huysmans agreed, suggesting Mary Cassatt's work expressed "a flutter of feminine nerves."

The Cup of Tea was not the only work of Mary Cassatt's which reflected her French aesthetic. Next, we'll see a work that some critics compare to those of Edgar Degas.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

Young Woman Sewing in a Garden by Mary Cassatt

Young Woman Sewing in a Garden by Mary Cassatt (oil on the Musée
Young Woman Sewing in a Garden by Mary Cassatt (oil on the Musée

Mary Cassatt completed Young Woman Sewing in a Garden between 1880 and 1882. Like Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Cassatt experimented with bold compositions. In Young Woman Sewing in a Garden, the figure is pushed up to the very surface of the picture plane, while the garden path behind her cuts across the back of the canvas in a diagonal axis. But in contrast to Edgar Degas's tight drawing style, Mary Cassatt handled her paint with a loose and confident stroke.

Besides studying the lives of women, Cassatt was interested in examining the daily lives of children. Next, we'll see a painting where Cassatt turns her talents toward that aim.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt

Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art).
Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt (oil on canvas, Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art).

In works such as the 1884 painting Children Playing on the Beach, Mary Cassatt looked at children with an honest eye. Cassatt captured their clumsy and often random motions and gave them a real rather than a cherubic aspect. With legs sprawled out for balance and a shovel gripped awkwardly in a little fist, the child in the foreground of Mary Cassatt's Children Playing on the Beach is intent on the act of filling a bucket, fully unaware of the viewer's gaze.

Eventually Mary Cassatt turned to other cultures for inspiration. On the next page we'll look at a painting influenced by her interest in Japanese art.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

The Child's Bath by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt's The Child's Bath (oil on canvas, 39-1/2x at The
Mary Cassatt's The Child's Bath (oil on canvas, 39-1/2x at The

The Child's Bath by Mary Cassatt, painted in 1893, demonstrates Mary Cassatt's increased interest in Japanese art in her later career. Cassatt admired Utamaro, a late 18th-century ukiyo-e master who was renowned for his portrayal of the private lives of women going about their daily activities.

In The Child's Bath, Mary Cassatt adapted elements of the Japanese aesthetic -- including asymmetrical composition, flattened space, areas of pattern, and steep perspective -- to a Western image of maternal care.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debra N. Mancoff is an art historian and lecturer and the author of numerous books on nineteenth-century European and American paintings. She is a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library.