Drypoint and aquatint
Platemark: 36.8 x 26.7 cm (14 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)
Bequest of Charles T. Brooks 1941.79
Catalogue raisonné: Mathews & Shapiro 14, Breeskin 152
State: M & S: V/V, B: IV/IV
The theme of a woman at her toilette was a common one for male artists of the 19th century for whom it presented the opportunity to depict the female nude—historically considered an essential aspect of artistic practice. For a woman artist to address the subject transgressed social norms of the period. Women were not permitted to attend the illustrious École des Beaux-Arts until 1897, and even at the Académie Julian, which opened to women in 1868, they were not permitted to draw from nude models. Cassatt's answer to the rules of decorum was to suggest the setting of a bourgeois house, rather than the settings her male contemporaries preferred—such as the Turkish bath or the brothel. In her description of the female body, Cassatt relied upon the stylized elegance of her Japanese prototypes, thereby abstracting the nudity of her model.
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