National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Letter Mary Cassatt (artist)
American, 1844 - 1926
The Letter, 1890-1891
drypoint, softground etching, and aquatint on laid paper
plate: 34.6 x 22.8 cm (13 5/8 x 9 in.) sheet: 43.6 x 30.3 cm (17 3/16 x 11 15/16 in.)
Mathews and Shapiro 1989, no. 8, State iv/iv
Chester Dale Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Mary Cassatt — Selected Color Prints
Object 5 of 12

In The Letter, as in the other prints from this series, Mary Cassatt explores the private realm of women in the nineteenth century. Though such domestic activities may at first glance seem trivial, Cassatt consistently endows her subjects with a gravity that underscores the seriousness of their occupations.

Correspondence often consumed a large part of a woman's day; she not only wrote to friends and acquaintances, but she was also responsible for answering invitations, responding to inquiries, and dealing with the daily domestic cares of the household. For Cassatt, who was an American expatriate living in Paris, the importance of letter-writing to keep in touch with family and friends must have held a special significance. The dropleaf desk in this composition still belongs to the artist's family; at one time, Cassatt herself may have used it to write letters.

Several aspects of The Letter reflect Japanese influence. The flattening of space is typical of the Japanese woodcuts popular in Europe at the time, as is an interior setting.

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