16 (Breeskin 27)
Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse
Alternate title(s): Katherine Johnston Cassatt; Katherine Kelso Cassatt; Mary Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse; Mrs. Robert Simpson Cassatt; Portrait de Mme C.; Portrait of Mrs. Robert Simpson Cassatt; Portrait of the Artist's Mother; Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt [or B-128]
Oil on panel
24 1/2 x 22 1/2 in. (62.23 x 57.15 cm)
Inscribed lower left: M.S. Cassatt/Antwerp/1873
Private collection

provenance / ownership history
Ellen Mary Cassatt (Mrs. Horace Binney) Hare, a niece of the artist
private collection

exhibition history
1927 Penn Museum: #26, as Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt [or B-128]
1960 Phila Museum: no #, as Mrs. Robert Simpson Cassatt
1966b Knoedler NY: #3, ill., as Portrait of Mrs. Robert Simpson Cassatt, lent by Mrs. Horace B. Hare
1978 MFA Boston: #1, as Mary Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse, lent anonymously
1979 Portland ME: no #, as Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse

published references
Sweet 1966: p. 27, as "portrait of her mother"
Hale, N. 1975: p. 12, as "earlier portrait"; p. 53, as "tart-looking portrait"; p. 79, as "portrait of Mary's mother"; p. 94, as "portrait of her mother"
Russell 1978: p. 97, as "her mother in Antwerp"
Mathews 1984: letter: MC to Louisine Havemeyer, March 22, 1920, p. 332, if this is the work described as "Mothers portrait"
Lindsay 1985: p. 94, as Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt or Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt in a Lacey [sic] Blouse
Chu 1987: p. 125, ill., as Portrait of the Artist's Mother
Mathews 1987: p. 25, ill.; p. 27, as Mrs. Robert Simpson Cassatt
Dillon 1990: pp. 279--81, as "1873 . . . Katharine [sic] . . . portrait"
Effeny 1991: p. 11, as "small portrait of [Cassatt's] mother"
Mathews 1994: p. 88; p. 89, ill., as Katherine Johnston Cassatt
Pollock 1998: p. 109, ill.; pp. 109--10, as Katherine Kelso Cassatt


Cassatt and her mother spent the spring and summer of 1873 in Belgium and the Netherlands. The artist wrote to Emily Sartain from Antwerp on June 25, "I have a room with a north light, and have begun to paint." At the end of the letter she reported, "Mother absolutely refused to pay models this summer, considering them an unnecessary expense."[1] From the evidence of this picture, which is signed "M. S. Cassatt/Antwerp/1873," it appears that Mrs. Cassatt was willing to serve as a model herself in the interest of thrift.

Like the pictures Cassatt created in Spain, Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse exhibits an extremely painterly facture, no doubt influenced not only by Velázaquez and the Spanish realists but also by Dutch and Flemish painters, mainly Rubens and Hals, whose works she studied during the summer of 1873. Absent from this picture, however, is the bright tonality of the Spanish paintings. The more somber palette, facial expression, and pose may owe something to the formal Dutch portraits she studied in this period, such as those on view in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands.[2]

While the early family provenance of Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse has not been established fully, it seems most likely that this was the picture Cassatt mentioned in a letter of March 22, 1920, in which she stated, "My Mother's portrait might go to Rob but it may not."[3] Robert Kelso Cassatt, a son of the artist's brother Gardner, is not known to have owned the picture. The other two portraits of the artist's mother, Reading "Le Figaro" and Portrait of Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt, were both included in an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Design that opened in mid-April 1920, the former lent by Elsie Cassatt (under her married name, Mrs. W. Plunkett Stewart), and the latter by Mrs. J. Gardner Cassatt, widow of the artist's brother. The first known owner of Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse was the artist's niece Ellen Mary Cassatt (later Mrs. Horace Binney Hare). The picture may be one of a number of works Mrs. Hare inherited directly from the artist.


[1] MC to Emily Sartain, Antwerp, June 25, [1873], in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), p. 122.

[2] Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, The Documented Image: Visions in Art History, eds. Gabriel P. Weisberg and Laurinda S. Dixon (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University, 1987), p. 123. Chu detects a resemblance between Mrs. Cassatt's pose and facial expression and those of Adriana Bredenhof, one of the figures in Hals's Regentesses of the Old Men's Alms House (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem), 1664.

[3] MC to Louisine Havemeyer, Grasse, March 22, 1920, in Mathews 1984, p. 332.

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