Louise Nursing her Child 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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Louise Nursing her Child is a beautifully crafted pastel drawing by Mary Cassatt from 1898 which now resides within a Swiss Foundation of which little is publically known. There exists a number of drypoint versions which are far simpler and would have been studies for this piece.

Mary Cassatt would produce artworks along the theme of mother and child many time within her career but rarely offered the open chest that we see here. Some traditional minds may have found this too much, but the benefit was in how it really built on the bond between the two figures found here. The mother has an orange dress which is black from the waist down, and her undergarment is white. Her brown hair is neatly tied back and any colour on her cheeks seems to be natural. She is too busy to even spend time preparing her appearance for this painting, beyond as requested by Cassatt. Her child lays on her lap and has a bow around a small strand of hair which sticks into the air. The two look deeply into each other's eyes as their bond continues to grow, and a new relationship starts to build. It may have been that the opportunity to enjoy a mother's milk provided Cassatt with more time to plan this artwork than if the child had simply been perched against its will on its mother's lap. That may have been how the artist managed to complete more detail here than she did elsewhere in other pastel drawings, where much of the supporting detail is left bare.

Cassatt chooses a strong purple tone for the background which really helps the foreground colours of white and orange to stand out. It is also only in the bottom left corner of the drawing that any detail is left out, as we can still see elements of the paper colour from beneath - the rest is all very detailed and covers the paper completely, with perhaps several layers of pastel in some parts. She would therefore have spent more time on this artwork than with other pastels, and perhaps this portrait was intended as a gift, or even maybe was commissioned, with the artist receiving payment on this occasion, rather than the models. She adored the bond between mother and child and frequently captured the lives of children within her own extended family before they all grew up, forcing her to then start finding new models from the general public.

As mentioned, there are several different versions of this content found elsewhere, with dry point studies capturing just the two main figures and without much detail. This suggests that the artist put quite some planning into the pastel drawing found here and therefore placed considerable importance in carrying it out successfully. As her career continues to rise in prominence, the valuations of even the study drawings would now be considerable, though lower than the piece in front of us here which is both beautifully done but also far more detailed than most other pastel drawings from her career. The relationship between mother and child is also a key part of her oeuvre, and so this item would surely fetch many hundreds of thousands of dollars were it to come to auction, and potentially running even into the millions, depending on the events of the day.