Sheet: 66 x 100 cm (26 x 39 3/8 in.)
Gift of J. H. Wade 1920.379
Cassatt began using pastel in the 1870s. Her earliest works display a sophistication unusual in a beginner; her colors were pure and unmuddied, the line certain, and compositions complex. Two opposing tendencies emerged in her mature pastel technique: while she always retained a high degree of finish in her sitters’ faces, she allowed herself great freedom in rendering their garments and surroundings. Such a dichotomy is evident in this portrait of a mother and her children. Cassatt commented that pastel was “the most satisfactory medium for [portraying] children.” The spontaneity that pastel allowed was an advantage when drawing children who could not sit still for long periods of time.
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