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“The Boating Party” by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt - The Boating Party

“The Boating Party” by Mary Cassatt

“The Boating Party” by Mary Cassatt depicts a woman, baby, and man in a sailboat. It is one of her largest oil paintings and is an unusual painting compared to Cassatt’s other artworks. While it does show her familiar theme of a mother and child, most of her other pictures are set in domestic interiors or gardens. In this painting, Cassatt expertly contrasts the dark figure of the oarsman with colourfully dressed figures of mother and child.

In 1890 Cassatt visited the great Japanese Print exhibition in Paris and she started collecting Japanese prints which had a significant influence on her. In this picture, Cassatt placed the horizon at the very top of the frame in the Japanese fashion. 

Cassatt painted this picture during the winter of 1893–1894 in Antibes, on the French Riviera. She was on holidays with her mother after her successful completion of the mural Modern Woman, commissioned for the Woman’s Building at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Also, her exhibition in 1893 at Durand-Ruel’s gallery had been well received.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 – 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She was born in Pennsylvania but lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Cassatt enjoyed the wave of feminism that occurred in the mid-1800s, allowing relatively easier access to educational institutions and she was an outspoken advocate for women’s equality, campaigning with her friends for equal travel scholarships for students in the 1860s, and the right to vote in the 1910s. As a successful, highly trained woman artist who never married, she portrayed women and mothers with dignity and the suggestion of a more in-depth, meaningful inner life. Cassatt objected to being stereotyped as a “woman artist” and actively supported women’s suffrage.

Mary Cassatt Insights

  • In 1966, this painting appeared on a US postage stamp.
  • Cassatt enjoyed the wave of feminism that occurred in the 1840s, allowing her to access educational institutions at newly coed colleges and universities.
  • Cassatt was an outspoken advocate for women’s equality, campaigning for equal scholarships in the 1860s, and the right to vote in the 1910s.
  • A trip to Egypt in 1910, so impressed Cassatt with the beauty of its ancient art, that she had a crisis of creativity.
  • While in France, Cassatt and Degas had an extended period of collaboration, and she also had contact with Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro.

Reflections

  • One of the leading female impressionists?
  • How did Impressionism influence this painting?
  • How did Japanese prints influence this painting?
  • Did Cassatt pioneer a path for female artists? Is she remembered today as a feminist?
  • Why was Cassatt “crushed by the strength of this Art [the old Egyptian Art]”?

The Boating Party

  • Title:               The Boating Party
  • Artist:              Mary Cassatt
  • Year:               1893
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 900 mm (35.43 ″); Width: 1,173 mm (46.18 ″)
  • Museum:        National Gallery of Art, DC

Mary Cassatt

Explore the National Gallery of Art

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“crushed by the strength of this Art [the old Egyptian art]…
I fought against it, but it conquered,
it is surely the greatest Art the past has left us…
..how are my feeble hands to ever paint the effect on me..”

– Mary Cassatt

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Photo Credit: Mary Cassatt [Public domain]

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