100 Days of Art History Jinjins


Denise at the Dressing Table

This is a painting by Mary Cassatt, an accomplished American woman impressionist. She's known for showing the domestic lives of women in her art, highlighting their interactions with children and their private moments. She was also friendly with the whole impressionist scene. She was especially close with Degas, though it seems that after a while their relationship cooled, probably at least partially because he was a real chauvinist--reading about him gives me incel vibes.

This isn't actually my favorite Cassatt artwork, but I did like the play of reflections and the relative simplicity of it--again, always a plus when I felt behind with the whole project. The theme of a woman looking into a mirror is so common in art history, usually symbolizing her vanity and shallowness. I don't think this is what either Cassatt or I were going for, but maybe we felt connected somehow to the the echo of that tradition even as we did our own versions.

My favorite Cassatt works are actually her prints. She was highly influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e prints (like all the Impressionists were) and her prints have some of that flavor. They are beautiful. I love La Toilette and The Bath. You can see more at the National Gallery of Art's website. I don't think I knew about these at this point of the project, but if I had I would probably have copied one of them instead.

Interestingly, although Cassatt frequently depicted mothers and children, she herself never married or had children. She was also an ardent suffragette who believed in equal rights.

The Boston MFA has a nice series of lectures on Cassatt on their Youtube channel if you want to dive deeper on her.

Reference image from the Public Domain Museum. The original is now at The Met.

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