In The Loge: People-Watching at the Paris Opera

A look at Mary Cassatt's iconic painting

In the late 1870s, when she first exhibited with the Impressionists, Mary Cassatt painted several images of the theater, a popular entertainment in Paris. Unlike her friend Edgar Degas, Cassatt focused on the spectators rather than the performers, exposing the dramas in the audience.

In the Loge explores the act of looking: a distant man watches the woman in black who stares through her opera glasses at another spectator. This series of glances evokes Cassatt's own studious observation as she produced the picture. Despite the man's intense gaze, the woman in black is not merely an object of his desire. Her own actions emphasize her independence and reflect the increasing social freedom accorded modern women.

In the Loge, 1878, by Mary Stevenson Cassatt; oil on canvas (collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

To take a closer look at the painting, zoom into the details here.

Or you can experience what this sort of scene would look like in real life, by taking a virtual tour of the Paris Opera — largely unchanged since Cassatt's time.

And, learn more about Cassatt's extraordinary painting by listening to this expert introduction.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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