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Jules Being Dried by his Mother is a double portrait from the year 1900 from Mary Cassatt who was a famous American artist that spent much of her life living and working in France. She would become a key member of the French Impressionist movement that would prove so influential upon the direction of modern art.
The lady here is dressed in a beautiful dress which is white with yellow stripes down the side. There is also an interesting pattern in tones of green and yellow across the front. It is relatively low cut, suggesting a more formal look than she would normally have worn whilst at home caring for this child. It maybe that they are preparing for an evening out and her last task is to prepare the boy, which the title identifies as being called Jules. She also wears bright red lipstick and her hair is perfectly styled in preparation for the evening. Cassatt would capture women's lives in all their different guises, both off at the theatre, in a glamorous setting, as well as at home caring for their children in a more traditional domestic setting. Previously we had not received such a well-rounded summary of this gender's experiences, and it took a successful female artist to finally deliver it, although she was joined by several other women within the Impressionist movement.
The detail here is precise, typical of the artist's work in oils. This medium would take her longer than when working with pastels, but the former would be more palatable to patrons and she could therefore charge much more money for them. Some of her portraits would be intended as gifts for friends, but as her career developed and her reputation spread, she was able to regularly sell work to fellow artists, collectors and some patrons who would commission pieces specifically. Her role as a woman within a man's world was not always a drawback, and in some cases helped her to provide a unique oeuvre which some collectors thought was working taking a risk with. Her technical ability was also already entirely understood and so she would start to change minds about the role of women within art over a period of several decades. She also made male artists think again about how they depicted women in their work, and to consider widening the scope of how they would be seen, when previously it may not have even crossed their minds.
It is hard to imagine any artist that has done more for women within art, both in how they are depicted and also for women to be accepted as artists themselves. Berthe Morisot was another important contributor, though, and it must be said that the Impressionist movement was much more welcoming that most more traditional artistic styles. Previously, many art colleges would not even allow women to join, and those that did would discourage them from continuing in many cases. Thankfully things have slowly challenged in order to get to the point where we are today, and efforts have also been made recently to really draw attention to female artists with a greater vigour than has been seen before.