20 Works, Today, May 22nd. is Mary Stevenson Cassatt’s day, her story, illustrated with footnotes #140

Pastel on paper
20 1/4 by 29 in., 51.4 by 73.7 cm
Private collection

The carefully defined representation of the figures’ faces in Madame and Her Maid contrasts with the expressive application of pigment Cassatt uses in the background of the composition. This latter technique imbues the work with an air of immediacy and spontaneity that suggests it was conceived from direct observation. More on this painting

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844–1926), born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, spent her early years with her family in France and Germany. From 1860 to 1862, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. By 1865, she had convinced her parents to let her study in Paris, where she took private lessons from leading academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, copied works of the old masters, and went sketching. She stayed in Courance and Écouen and studied with Édouard Frère and Paul Soyer. In 1868, Cassatt’s painting The Mandolin Player (See below) was accepted at the Paris Salon, the first time her work was represented there. After three-and-a-half years in France, the Franco-Prussian War interrupted Cassatt’s studies and she returned to Philadelphia in the late summer of 1870…

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