Within the composition itself we find a combination of expressive strokes of the pastel as well as some sensitively delivered content which celebrates the close bond between mother and child. It was a theme which Cassatt visited regularly and she was one of the few artists from the 19th century to have captured the lives of women living domestic roles as part of the traditional nature of society at that time. Some feminists in recent years have rejected her work as pandering to gender stereotypes, but most other people simply appreciate the considerable technical skills that she possessed as well as underlining the important role that she played in convincing the art world of the benefits of including women both in terms of content, but also promoting female painters. She was joined by a number of other women within the Impressionist movement who, in recent years, have started to receive a little more focus than they did previously.
Sotheby's put this artwork up for sale as recently as 2018 and it was to achieve an extraordinary purchase price of $4,518,200 after some lively bidding. It would therefore achieve a sale price that was over four times the original valuation and this marks it out as a particularly important piece within Cassatt's pastel drawings. It is likely to be the content found here which particularly resonates with those bidding for it, and the scene of a charming hug between mother and child is also highly typical of this artist's career. With the rise in interest for female artists of late, there has also been a greater attempt to acquire their work, whenever opportunities arise and it is likely that several different institutions or private collectors came up against each other, each with a firm desire to get the hold of the item for their own collections. Many of her other drawings have been auctioned for lower prices, ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but to achieve over four million dollars would have made the art world take notice.
Embraces carry a strong emotional value which artists have made use of for many centuries. For example, no-one can forget Gustav Klimt's The Kiss, which was also inspirational to French sculptor Auguste Rodin who produced his own versions. Cassatt's path was a little different, though, as she was not looking at the embrace from a romantic standpoint, but instead in the maternal connection that only young mothers can truly understand. Cassatt would make use of a number of children in her extended family for portraiture as her career developed, but after a while they would grow up and so she started to employ other local girls, some of whom she would feature many times in both oils and pastels. She left behind an oeuvre that underlined the technical abilities possessed by women as well as providing content that took advantage of an alternative perspective.