Smiling Mother with Sober Faced 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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This pastel drawing achieved a sale price of $43,750 as recently as 2019 in an auction in Sotheby's, New York. This is lower than some of Cassatt's other drawings, perfectly reflecting the lack of detail included in this piece.

Here we find a tall mother with a happy expression, cuddling her young child who sits on her left leg. Cassatt chooses to only complete the two faces and leaves the rest pretty much just as a series of rough, approximate lines. There does not seem a great connect between the angles nor expressions of the two figures here, which leaves the piece slightly unbalanced. This may have been due to the nature of drawing young children who can wriggle around constantly and are harder to capture within a portrait. In any case, Cassatt worked quickly in order to do what she could whilst the child was calm. Her mother has long brown hair which is tidied away in order to allow her to complete her domestic role without any distractions. She has a long, oval face with clean white teeth which appear as she smiles directly at us. Her daughter looks unhappy, or uncomfortable, perhaps not so willing to sit for the artist. Cassatt makes use of tones of blue which perhaps reflects from other elements within the room when she put the piece together in the first place.

This piece was sold at an auction called American Art which was held in New York and focused on a number of famous artists from this nation, covering several different centuries. Cassatt herself featured several times within the overall list of works and currently she is enjoying an increased following, which has resulted in her artworks achieving higher valuations. This piece was listed as pastel on laid paper, and is relatively large for this medium, at 80cm tall by 65cm wide, approximately. The piece is dated at 1903-1904 and Cassatt originally worked with children of family friends before many grew up and became too old for her artistic tastes, meaning she had to start employing other models more often. This piece has been featured in a catalogue raisonne which attempted to better document the artist's entire career, and its inclusion would have given bidders a greater confidence in its authenticity.

Cassatt was joined in the Impressionist movement by another talented female painter who went by the name of Berthe Morisot. Some of her best work included The Mother and Sister of the Artist, In the Garden at Maurecourt, The Garden at Bougival and The Artist's Sister at a Window. In truth, she left behind a huge oeuvre of her own and touched on similar topics to Cassatt, as well as some other genres as they both attempted to forge relatively unique outputs across their careers. The Impressionists welcomed a number of female painters into their fold, and these figures would help to widen the output of this movement, as well as contributing some impressive technical talents too. The Impressionists were all about modern outlooks, meaning challenging societal norms was a key part of their mantre.

Smiling Mother with Sober Faced Child in Detail Mary Cassatt