25 (Breeskin 12)
Portrait of Eddy Cassatt
Alternate title(s): Eddy in Red Velvet (Edward Buchanan Cassatt); Enfant au chien; Enfant et chien; Portrait of Eddy Cassatt
1875
Oil on canvas
58 1/8 x 43 1/4 in. (147.64 x 109.86 cm)
Inscribed lower left: Eddy/from/Aunt Mary
Private collection

provenance / ownership history
From the artist
to her nephew, Edward Buchanan Cassatt, the sitter
to Lois Cassatt (Mrs. John B.) Thayer, his daughter, Rosemont, Pennsylvania
by descent in the family
private collection

exhibition history
1895 Durand-Ruel NY: #29, as Enfant au chien, lent by a private collection
1960 Phila Museum: no #, as Eddy in Red Velvet (Edward Buchanan Cassatt)
1979 Portland ME: no #, as Portrait of Eddy Cassatt

published references
Marks 1895b: p. 158, as Enfant et chien
NY Sun 1895: p. 7, as Enfant au chien
NY Times 1895b: p. 4, as "child with a dog (No. 29)"
Walker, S. 1895: p. 7, as "portrait . . . of her little nephew"
Sweet 1966: p. 24, as "portrait of . . . Eddie Cassatt"
Hale, N. 1975: pp. 48, 49, as "portrait of Eddie"
Love 1980: pp. 9, 17, as "portrait of Eddy Cassatt"
Rubinstein 1982: p. 131, as Portrait of Eddy Cassatt
Lindsay 1985: p. 95n3, as "Breeskin 1970, cat. 12"
Mathews 1987: p. 24, ill.; p. 35, as Portrait of Eddy Cassatt
Wiser 1991: p. 38, as "portrait of . . . Edward"
Pollock 1998: p. 112, as "largest easel painting"

commentary

Edward Buchanan Cassatt, the eldest son of the artist's brother Alexander, was born August 23, 1869, and died in 1922. Although family letters generally refer to him as "Eddie," Cassatt inscribed Portrait of Eddy Cassatt with the dedication, "Eddy/from/Aunt Mary," in keeping with her sometimes idiosyncratic approach to spelling.

Edward appears to be six or seven years old here, suggesting that the work must have been painted around 1875–76. The picture is quite similar to the two Cassatt portraits firmly dated to 1875—her Salon submission from that year, Mlle E. C. (known only through a cartoon after the work), and Portrait of Isaac George Waterman, which is inscribed 1875. Like those pictures, Portrait of Eddy Cassatt, with its self-consciously historical costume and accoutrements, is intended to invoke both Old Master tradition and the modern society portrait of Cassatt's day. Given the similarities between this picture and these 1875 portraits, and given that Cassatt was in Philadelphia during the summer of 1875, it is reasonable to conjecture that she painted Edward's portrait during that trip to her homeland, though little is known about her activities during the voyage.

As Nancy M. Mathews has explained, Cassatt sought to establish herself as a portrait painter in 1874–75 in hopes of gaining commissions, especially from Americans visiting Paris.[1] Portrait of Eddy Cassatt may have been intended as something of a "sample" of the artist's portrait work to be displayed in Alexander Cassatt's Haverford, Pennsylvania, home. Moreover, had the picture been painted at some point when Edward was visiting Paris and then sent back to the United States, there would probably be some evidence of the shipping transaction in family letters, but no such information has yet been located.

When Durand-Ruel, New York, showed Portrait of Eddy Cassatt under the title Enfant au chien in 1895, the picture was listed without a date in the catalogue, but the reviewer for the New York Sun described it as "a picture of a nephew in knickerbockers, dated 1876."[2] The writer's knowledge of the subject's relation to the artist implies that he or she might also have been informed about the date, perhaps by a family member. At the same time, nearly twenty years had passed since 1876, and memory is often unreliable.

Stylistically, Portrait of Eddy Cassatt shows that in the mid-1870s Cassatt was beginning to assimilate certain aspects of the French and English schools of painting, which would prove important in allowing her to make the transition from the dark and serious tone of French academic art to the lighter palette and mood of Impressionism. Edward is dressed in a variation of the Van Dyck costume for children, derived from that seventeenth-century Flemish painter's images of the court of Charles I. The style was popular in England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when it was depicted on children in portraits by artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, and Joshua Reynolds. The Van Dyck costume for children emerged again in the late nineteenth century, when it spread to France and America, gaining its greatest popularity after the 1885 publication of Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy in the United States. Reginald Birch's illustrations of Burnett's protagonist, Cedric, in velvet suit and ringlets led to great interest in this type of dress for boys among the American middle class through World War I.

Portrait of Eddy Cassatt resembles English Romantic images such as Lawrence's Charles William Lambton of 1825 (Trustees of Lambton Estate). Salon artist May Alcott, the sister of Louisa May Alcott and an acquaintance of Cassatt's, noted the affinity between Cassatt's works and those of Lambton's portraitist in an 1876 letter, stating that Cassatt's paintings "wouldn't suffer if hung with the Thomas Lawrences."[3]

Portrait of Eddy Cassatt also shares features with paintings in a similar vein by the leading French portraitist of the late nineteenth century, Emile Carolus-Duran, who was a practitioner of this style of child portraiture that looked back to the Van Dyckian and English Romantic traditions. Cassatt's picture is akin not only to Carolus-Duran's 1874 Salon painting of his daughter, Portrait de Marie Anne Carolus-Duran (San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor), but also to his 1871 Portrait of Hector Brame (private collection).[4] Both Edward's and Hector's portraits look back to Velázquez's Prince Baltasar Carlos in Hunting Costume, 1635 (Madrid, Prado Museum).[5] The Old Master references in this type of portrait serve both to invest the sitter with an air of nobility and to associate the artist with the greatest painters of art historical tradition.

At 58 1/8 x 43 1/4 inches, Portrait of Eddy Cassatt is Cassatt's largest known easel painting.

PAI

[1] Nancy Mowll Mathews, Mary Cassatt: A Life (New York: Villard, 1994), p. 98.

[2] "Miss Cassatt's Paintings," New York Sun, April 19, 1895, p. 7.

[3] May Alcott letter, November 1876, in Caroline Ticknor, May Alcott: A Memoir (Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1928), p. 152. GET REFERENCE INFORMATION

[4] Cassatt's now lost 1875 Salon painting Portrait de Mlle C., in addition to resembling Carolus-Duran's Portrait de Marie Anne Carolus-Duran, is in the same mode as Portrait de Sabine Carolus-Duran (private collection), also shown in the 1875 Salon. For an image of this picture, see Carolus-Duran, 1837–1917 (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003), p. 162, Fig. 2. As an adult, Hector Brame became a dealer and sold Cassatt's The Blue Room.

[5] In a letter MC to Emily Sartain, Seville, October 27 [1872], in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), p. 110, Cassatt mentions "a sketch of the little prince Balthsar Charles [sic] that I made in the gallery in Madrid." It is not known which of Velázquez’s portraits of the Spanish prince Cassatt had copied.

STOP (pseudonym of L. P. G. B. Morel-Retz), caricature of Cassatt's painting of Mlle. E. C., shown in the Salon of 1875, published in Le journal amusant, June 26, 1875.

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keywords:
 portrait
 collar
 dog
 sash
 lace
 black
 boy
 child
 red
 velvet
 animal
 looking forward
 curtain
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