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Mary Cassatt

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Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer





Mary Cassatt (U.S., 1845–1926)
Sara in a Dark Bonnet Tied under Her Chin
, c. 1901
Pastel on paper
21 x 16 ¼ in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000


As the only American to be included in the Impressionist exhibitions, Mary Cassatt helped to create a taste for the style in the United States and fostered important ties between American collectors and the Impressionists. The daughter of a Pittsburgh banker, Cassatt spent most of her adult life in France and enjoyed success in both Europe and North America. Her friendship with Edgar Degas led to her inclusion in the fourth Impressionist exhibition in 1879, as well as those in 1880, 1881, and 1886. Like Degas, Cassatt favored the human form and preferred portraits of female sitters, especially mothers and children.

Sara in a Dark Bonnet Tied under Her Chin is a portrait of the granddaughter of Emile-Francois Loubet, a former President of the French Republic. Cassatt’s pastel straddles the boundaries of sketch and finished portrait. While Sara’s face and bonnet are fairly resolved with a delicate handling of the pastel, Cassatt only roughed in her body and background with a demonstrable immediacy. Cassatt used pastel primarily to sketch prior to the late 1870s but thereafter began creating drawings she considered complete even when the work was seemingly unfinished. Her signature in the upper right attests to her intent to see the work as resolved, even though it is likely a preparatory work for the painting Sara in Dark Bonnet with Right Hand on Arm of Chair, ca. 1901 (private collection). Sara posed for more than 50 drawings and paintings, and the artist clearly appreciated something in the girl’s countenance or cheerful personality.