National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Boating Party Mary Cassatt (artist)
American, 1844 - 1926
The Boating Party, 1893/1894
oil on canvas
overall: 90 x 117.3 cm (35 7/16 x 46 3/16 in.) framed: 112.1 x 137.8 cm (44 1/8 x 54 1/4 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View
From the Tour: Mary Cassatt — Selected Paintings
Object 9 of 10

Mary Cassatt created The Boating Party in the winter of 1893/1894 at Antibes, on the Mediterranean coast in France. It is representative of Cassatt's finest period. Just two years earlier, as a mature and accomplished artist, she had had her first one-person exhibition in which her extraordinary series of ten color prints were shown. Among other exciting innovations, these works demonstrated the influence of her recent encounter with the Japanese prints exhibited at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890. In The Boating Party, the high horizon, off-center placement of figures, elimination of unnecessary detail, and preoccupation with surface patterns and contours also reveal this awareness of Japanese art.

For the picture's subject matter Cassatt may have drawn upon Edouard Manet's Boating (1874, Metropolitan Museum of Art), a painting that she greatly admired. Like Manet, who himself admired Japanese woodcuts, she used a close-up view, with the nearest portion of the boat cut off at the edge of the image. But her dazzling color scheme and broad, flat brushwork are post-impressionist in flavor--the color preferences of Gauguin and Van Gogh.

The composition of The Boating Party is, as in the most interesting of Cassatt's paintings, unconventional and arresting. The darkly clad figure of the boatman looms large in the foreground, almost appearing to project out of the canvas. The sail at left, the oar, and the bow of the boat all point to the head of the child who, in a pose typical of the artist, is shown sprawling gracelessly, yet naturally, in its mother's lap. Despite the simple subject and the centrality of the contented baby, the painting exudes a peculiar psychological intensity because of the enigmatic relationship between the figures so closely tied together in the composition. In conception, execution, and sheer size, this is surely Cassatt's boldest work.

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