A prolific and innovative printmaker, Mary Cassatt created “Mother’s Kiss“ as one of a series of 10 color prints intended for an 1891 exhibition at the influential Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris. Cassatt had challenged herself to imitate the aesthetic of Japanese prints that she had seen on view in Paris the year before. The resulting series, which also includes “The Bath,” reflects the techniques and subjects Cassatt admired.

Cassatt skillfully evoked the tender relationship between mother and child through restrained handling of line, color, and pattern. A single line delineates both the curve of the mother’s left hand and the child’s left upper arm, visually emphasizing the physical and emotional closeness of the relationship. Like the Japanese prints she admired, her print features compressed space and limited three-dimensional modeling. These qualities further focus attention on the intimacy of the mother-child relationship.

“Mother’s Kiss” is one of many mother and child images for which Cassatt earned international renown. She initially experimented with the mother and child theme in the 1880s, inspired by the relationship between her sister-in-law and nephew. A decade later, Cassatt was regarded a specialist on the subject. Observing from real life, Cassatt developed the ability to capture a pose quickly, a necessary talent given the active nature of young children. Indeed, the child in “Mother’s Kiss” appears capable of wriggling away at any moment.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: Mother’s Kiss
  • Creator: Mary Cassatt
  • Date: 1890/1891
  • selected exhibition history: “Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman,” Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1998–99; “Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926,” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1970; “Exposition de tableaux, pastels et gravures de Mary Cassatt”Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1893
  • artist profile: Recognized as one of the foremost 19th-century American painters and printmakers, Mary Cassatt is known for her prolific career and Impressionist artwork. A native of Pennsylvania who lived as an expatriate in Paris beginning in 1874, Cassatt started formal training as a painter in 1861. In 1865, she took her first trip to Europe, where she would remain for the next four years, traveling and studying in Paris, Rome, and Madrid. In 1868, her painting “A Mandolin Player” became her first work to be accepted by the Paris Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Edgar Degas saw Cassatt’s work at the Salon, and in 1877 he asked her to exhibit with the Impressionists. Cassatt’s painting style and subject matter changed greatly because of her association with Impressionism. She abandoned colorful costume genre depictions in favor of scenes from contemporary life. Two years later, Cassatt and other artists, including Degas, Félix Braquemond, and Camille Pissarro, experimented with graphic techniques in the hopes of creating a new print journal. Although the journal never came to fruition, this work became very important to Cassatt in her development as a printmaker and a painter. Throughout the latter half of the 1880s, Cassatt produced etchings and drypoints of members of her family. Her failing eyesight prevented her from working for the last 15 years of her life, but because she had been an exceptionally prolific printmaker, she produced more than 220 prints during the course of her career.
  • Style: Impressionism
  • Physical Dimensions: w9 x h13.75 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Print
  • Rights: Gift of John and Linda Comstock in loving memory of Abigail Pearson Van Vleck; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • Medium: Drypoint and aquatint on paper