National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of the Artist's Mother Mary Cassatt (artist)
American, 1844 - 1926
Portrait of the Artist's Mother, c. 1889
soft-ground etching and aquatint in light brown, yellow, and green
sheet: 35.2 x 21 cm (13 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Mathews and Shapiro 1989, no. 4, State iv/iv
Rosenwald Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Mary Cassatt — Selected Color Prints
Object 1 of 12

In 1877, Mary Cassatt's parents came to live with her in Paris. From this time on, her mother Katherine became a favorite subject for Cassatt's paintings, drawings, and prints. In this portrait, Mrs. Cassatt, who was in poor health, sits in a chair, her head resting on her hand; she seems immersed in a contemplative reverie.

This complex print combines both etching and aquatint. Cassatt carefully controlled her use of aquatint so that some areas such as the flowers, face, and shawl were only lightly bitten, while the dress printed as a rich, black tone, setting off the sitter's pale face.

In the final state, touches of green and yellow have been added to the plate; Cassatt used sticks fitted with soft, cloth-covered heads to apply paint directly to the surface of the plate before printing. Because she hand-colored the plates individually, each one has a distinctive quality, and in this sense her prints are unique works.

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