If You like Claude Monet, You'll love Mary Cassatt

Discover an Impressionist painter you may not know

By Google Arts & Culture

The Beach at Trouville (1870) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

Born in 1840, Claude Monet was the quintessential Impressionist artist. His art examines modern life with a modern eye: flourishing ornamental gardens, the noise of steam trains, and the busy hustle and bustle of harbours.

This 1870 painting presents one such modern subject: the seaside resort at Trouville, France. Seaside holidays were a relatively recent fashion amongst the European bourgeoisie, and Trouville quickly became the place to visit.

The figure to the left is probably Monet's wife Camille, and the woman on the right may be the wife of Eugène Boudin, whose own beach scenes influenced the work of Monet.

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878)National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Bourgeois life was also a subject of Mary Cassatt, an American artist living in Paris, an acquaintance of Monet, and one of the few woman impressionists. She had been invited by Edgar Degas to join the group in 1877.

This painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, was made just one year later, and probably first exhibited at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879.

This kind of scene would have been familiar to Cassatt - even though she didn't have children of her own - her upper middle class family ensured she always lived an independent life of relative ease and luxury.

Like Monet's beach scene, it appears that nothing much is happening: a young girl reclines on a large, floral chair.

On the chair beside her lies a small dog.

There's something uneasy about this scene. The perspective places us high up, looking down on the scene, as if we were an adult in the room. But our view is constrained by the crowded, oversized chairs, the plain grey floor, and the curtained windows.

The young child seems to be daydreaming. She lies back, entirely disengaged, her gaze passing by the viewer.

There are no  toys… no adults to pay attention… no other children to play with… and the dog would rather sleep.

In fact, this painting seems more like a psychological profile than a piece of decorative art. It's a multicolored insight into the stultifying comfort that women of Cassatt's class were expected to enjoy.

The Beach at Trouville (1870) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

With that in mind, take a look again at Monet's beach scene. Monet was not known as a painter of portraiture, or an analyst of emotion, but we can ask the same questions. Are these women happy where they are? What brought them here? Would they rather be elsewhere?

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878)National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps