Though born and trained in the United States, Cassatt lived nearly her whole life in France. She was the only American, and one of only three women, to exhibit with the Impressionist group; by 1894 she had sold enough work to be able to purchase a château in Mesnil-Théribus (about ninety...
Though born and trained in the United States, Cassatt lived nearly her whole life in France. She was the only American, and one of only three women, to exhibit with the Impressionist group; by 1894 she had sold enough work to be able to purchase a château in Mesnil-Théribus (about ninety kilometers northwest of Paris), where she lived and worked for much of the year. It was at her château that she painted "Caresse Maternelle." Best known for her images of mothers and children, Cassatt was likely inspired to explore this theme by her many nieces and nephews, whom she adored, as well as by images of the Madonna and Child from the Italian Renaissance. Her interest in the subject also reflects the late nineteenth-century fascination with maternity and the new emphasis on child care. In "Caresse Maternelle," Cassatt's models are tightly entwined, and their poses seem entirely natural. In what seems to be a spontaneous expression of affection, the little girl kneels in the mother's lap and hugs her around her neck. Their cheek-to-cheek embrace completes the image of tender intimacy. Cassatt used long brushstrokes to render the dresses of mother and daughter, and the softness of the fabric augments the sweet feminine atmosphere. Although Cassatt was never married and had no children of her own, she had a remarkable ability to portray the special love between mother and child. This text was adapted from Carol Troyen and Janet Comey, "Children in American Art" (Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2007, in Japanese).
Lower right: Mary Cassatt
The artist; with Durand-Ruel, Paris; Mrs. John M. Longyear, by 1915; (auction of the Longyear estate); Miss Aimee Lamb, by about 1939; to MFA, 1970, gift of Miss Aimee Lamb.
Gift of Miss Aimée Lamb in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Horatio Appleton Lamb