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The Bath

Mary Cassatt1891/1891

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

In 1890, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris held a large-scale exhibition of Japanese prints that strengthened Mary Cassatt’s interest in printmaking. The exhibition inspired her to create a series of 10 color aquatints. “The Bath” is the first print in the series and derives from an extensive group of related works of mothers and children.

Japanese art influenced not only Cassatt’s choice of subject matter but also her technique and composition. Japanese woodblock prints commonly depicted women bathing children.

Cassatt’s woman and child are neither clearly European nor Asian. She rendered the figures and tub as two-dimensional shapes. Indeed, she almost completely eliminated the traditional shading and tonal variations that create the illusion of depth in Western art.

Cassatt, a prolific artist who created more than 220 prints during her career, produced “The Bath” in 17 editions; the National Museum of Women in the Arts owns a final impression.

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Details

  • Title: The Bath
  • Creator: Mary Cassatt
  • Date: 1891/1891
  • 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: w9.625 x h12.375 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Print
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Drypoint, aquatint, and softground etching on paper
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Exhibitions: “Trove: The Collection in Depth,” 2011; “Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997,” 1997–98; “The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy,” 1994–95; “Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts,” 1990–91; “American Women Artists: 1830-1930,” 1987

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