Mary Cassatt

Barn02_4008_01Julian Barnes at the LRB:

Now, with time and a shift of art-historical wind, we may see Cassatt a little more clearly, and a little more as herself. She is, largely, a painter of the great indoors, the here and now, and of women’s space within it. She does not do landscape or nature – the urban park and the boating lake are as far as that goes; nor does she give us action, history, myth, still life, houses, horses, sunsets or those forbidden parts of the Opéra. She does not do men much, though her double portrait of her brother Alexander with his son Robert, the boy sitting on the arm of his father’s armchair, their black suits blending into one and their button-black eyes popping in parallel towards some unknown object (a joint-television gaze from pre-television times) makes us wish she had portrayed the opposite sex more. She does mothers and babies with an acute eye for the weight and fall of an infant’s flesh, and an acute sense of the weight and fall of an infant’s mood. She made a series of colour prints whose limpidity, grace and line echo and learn from the Japanese without appearing in any way subservient (though it would be good to know what the Japanese thought, and think, about them). She did some rather weak pictures of the big-hatted daughters of friends. And she did several one-off paintings – like Little Girl in a Blue Armchair and In the Loge – whose power has never faded. It is an indicator of Cassatt’s return to wider fashion that Simon Schama included two of her ‘Japanese’ prints in an episode of the TV show Civilisations, while in a later one David Olusoga brought In the Loge to his argument.

more here.