Born in a privileged background, her love for art was unrivalled, which forced her to move to France to express herself freely. The inspiration behind this painting was a challenge by Edgar Degas, a fellow impressionist and Mary’s harshest critic, and friend. The painting shows a girl in a room, straightening her hair. She is in white clothes, preferably a nightgown. Adjacent to her is a dressing mirror with some toiletries. Such amenities can be found in a middle-class household. The colour mix, simplicity, and attention to detail in this painting makes it stand out. From pink to sky blue, white, and brown, the painting shows mastery in colours and attention to detail.
It is an oil on canvas painting done in 1886. The original measurement was 625 cm wide and 751 cm high. Mary painted this piece was a response to Edgar’s assertion of women lacking a keen eye to finer details in the painting. The painting went on to fetch good publicity and money. It has since passed through Edgar Degas, Galarie Petit, Louisine Havemeyer, American Arts Association, and currently housed at Chester Dale. The year 1886 saw her painted other pictures, among them the Child in A Straw Hat, Woman Ranging Her Vail, and Young Girl with Brown Hair. Overall, her best paintings were the Young Woman in Black and Green Bonnet (1890), The Boat Party (1893-4) and Woman Standing Holding a Fan (1878-9).
Despite being born in an aristocratic background, she paddled through talents to be one of the best female artists in the Impressionism era. Her move to France opened up endless possibilities in painting. From oil on canvas to colour shed, she mastered the use of multiple colours that brought perfect impressions of life. Together with the Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot, they formed the Three Great Ladies of Impressionist era. She exhibited in numerous art expos, the notable one being the Louvre in Paris, France. To date, some of her works are found at the National Art Gallery in Washington DC, Smithsonian Institute, and the Amon Carter Museum of Art.