It’s not easy to be a woman at the end of the 19th century, among all the Parisian painters that Mary Cassatt frequents daily. At their time, only a handful of them managed to make a living from their art, especially when one means to connect with the incessant tumult of impressionist quests. It was also not easy to find one’s way when the canons of the time at the time prohibited a woman painter from representing a man outside her family, or when historical or cultural subjects were inaccessible to her, due to lack of commissions. But the American painter of French ancestry showed perseverance. Remaining single and childless, she nevertheless managed to impose her original view on the family relationship, particularly that of a mother and her child. A subject that she will paint many times.
At the turn of fifty, Cassatt reached the peak of his art, varying techniques and styles. Her world ranges from the refined Japanese art of prints to the carnal generosity of Rubens whom she admires. In this intimate scene, the flesh is well present in a delicate interlacing of arms, faces and legs against a white and gray background of sheets, pillows, cups and furniture. The pink cheeks of the mother and her daughter bring them together and soothe the worry that seems to arise from the adult’s gaze on her child. Because motherhood is indeed a strange thing, this permanent concern for others, for the little one. Mary Cassatt knows this well too, having lost a younger brother when she was only 11 years old. This gives rise to such a unique feminine sensitivity. “I cannot admit that a woman draws so well,” her friend Edgar Degas gushed, admiringly.