Little girl laying in a blue armchair

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (detail), 1877–1878. Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 51 in. (89.5 x 129.5 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.18

Mary Cassatt at Work

Too often dismissed as a sentimental painter of mothers and children, Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) was in fact a modernist pioneer. Her paintings, pastels, and prints are characterized by restless experimentation and change. Cassatt was the only American to join the French Impressionists, first exhibiting with the group at Degas’s invitation in 1879, and quickly emerged as a key member of the movement. Alongside scenes of women at the opera, visiting friends, and taking tea, Cassatt produced many images of “women’s work” — knitting and needlepoint, bathing children, and nursing infants. These images suggest parallels between the work of art making and the work of caregiving. The exhibition calls attention to the artist’s own processes of making — how she used her brush, etching needle, pastel stick, and even fingertips to create radical art under the cover of “feminine” subject matter.


This exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsor
John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn
Barbara A. Wolfe
Diane B. Wilsey

Major Support
Gretchen B. Kimball

Significant Support
Margaret & Will Hearst

Generous Support
Sandra Bessières
Edina Jennison
Christine & Pierre Lamond

Additional support is provided by Jan and Bob Newman.

Also on view