The Child's Bath Mary Cassatt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Child's Bath, an oil painting, was executed by Mary Cassatt in 1893. The painting measures 39.5 by 26 inches, and it has been in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1910. Located in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the US.

In 1891, the artist created the painting with 2 subjects: A young child and a mother figure. The genre scene in the painting is based on the daily bathing of a kid, a moment that's "special by people not taking it as special". In the painting, the female figure is holding up the child protectively and firmly with her left hand. Her right hand is carefully washing the feet of the child.

The child's small, chubby left arm is bracing against the mother's thigh. The child's right arm is clamped firmly on her own thigh. Looking at the mother's right-hand, it's pressing firmly but gently on the basin's foot, which mimicks the child's pressure on her thigh.

In The Child's Bath, Cassatt used a style called Japonism. The overhead perspective and the subject matter were mainly inspired by Japanese woodblocks. The painting shows dignity in motherhood. The artist painted the faces in the painting to recede into space as a way of indicating depth.

The paint strokes are rough and layered, creating thick lines outlining the figures and make them stand out from the decorated background. The artist's hand is evident through the rough strokes, and the observer can view this better from a distance.

The artist was heavily influenced by her fellow Impressionist peers, particularly the French artist Edgar Degas who was famous for his oil paintings and pastel drawings of ballerinas. The first Impressionist painting in the US was a pastel produced by Degas in 1875 that Cassatt bought. In 1877, Cassatt started exhibiting with the Impressionists, where the artist met other fellow Impressionists such as Berthe Morisot and Claude Monet.

In 1890, Cassatt was struck by Japanese woodcut prints at the Académie des Beaux-Arts during the exhibition that was held in Paris 3 years before he painted The Child's Bath. She was attracted by the clarity and simplicity of the Japanese design, as well as the skilful usage of blocks of colour. Generally, the perspective of The Child's Bath was inspired by Degas and Japanese artists.