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A Woman and a Girl Driving is a charming artwork which Mary Cassatt completed in 1881. It can now be found within the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the US.
This composition features a charming scene of mother and child leading a horse and cart through a rural location with a gentleman in the back, with his face turned in the opposite direction. The woman is dressed elegantly, with a classically designed hat with decorative touches which sits firmly on her head as she makes her way down the street. Her focus is entirely on the route ahead, whilst her daughter sits next to her, looking fairly relaxed and enjoying the ride. They are both dressed smartly, whilst the mother holds the reins in order to lead the horse, who is included only from the back, with its strong physique creeping into the left hand side of the painting. The carriage is entirely made of wood, other than a couple of lights which are positioned on either side of the front. One imagines that the horses would be capable of fast speeds to warrant any of these safety elements but European history would tell us of how this mode of transport would be replaced by car within the next few decades.
This painting can be found in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It takes pride of place alongside several other items from this artist's career and will normally be on display, such is the prominence of Cassatt's reputation within American art history. Aside from that, there is plenty more to see, including a large number of paintings from other members in, or related to, the French Impressionist movement. For example, a visit here will normally find the following items on display - The Large Bathers by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny by Claude Monet, Fish Magic by Paul Klee and also this Portrait of Madame Cézanne by her husband, Paul Cezanne. There is therefore a good mixture of European and American art, including a number of artists like Cassatt who sat somewhere in the middle.
Research into this painting, probably by its present owners, has revealed that this journey is believed to have been carried out in the Bois de Boulogne, which is a wooded park within the greater Paris area. This certainly matches the other information that we have on the artist's life from around this period and she would eventually leave the city and enjoy a more relaxed way of life in the French countryside. We also are aware that it is actually her sister, Lydia, who drives the carriage and she would appear in several portraits at around this time. Sadly, she would become ill and pass away relatively young, making these artworks even more significant. The child has been identified as Odile Fèvre, who was the niece of the painter Edgar Degas. We also know that the Cassatt family had purchased a carriage in 1879 and both sisters would get to drive it from time to time, just as the upper classes were starting to really enjoy the leisure time that was now afforded to them.