Overview

It was Edgar Degas who invited Cassatt to participate in the impressionist exhibitions, and the two remained close associates. Degas respected Cassatt's work, seeing in her careful compositions an approach to art that was deliberate and well thought out. Degas was known for his sharp criticism of other artists' work. He once complained to Cassatt: "What do women know about style?" She took his words as a challenge to produce a work whose appeal derived, not from a conventionally pretty subject, but purely from artifice, the painter's skill, and style. This painting is the result.

She chose a subject that Degas himself had often depicted: an ordinary, working–class girl at her toilette. The beauty of the picture comes from the rigor of the composition and its harmonized contrast of pinks and blues—in the sitter's nightdress, in the background, and even in her skin. While the moment is casual, even private, the girl's pose and the arrangement of furniture behind her are artfully contrived. Note, for example, how the chair back, the dry sink, and the mirror–frame rise in steps parallel to the motion of her arms, echoing and enhancing their upward sweep.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas [1834-1917]; (his atelier sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 26-28 March 1918, no. 8); purchased by Louisine Waldron Havemeyer [1855-1929], New York; (her sale, American Art Association Anderson Galleries, New York, 10 April 1930, no. 75); purchased by Chester Dale [1883-1962]; bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1886
La 8me Exposition de Peinture [Eighth Impressionist Exhibition], Paris, 1886, no. 9, as Etude.
1893
Exposition Mary Cassatt, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1893, no. 17.
1908
Tableaux et Pastels par Mary Cassatt, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1908, no. 1, as La Toilette.
1910
Possibly Austellung Amerikanische Kunst, Royal Academy of Art, Berlin, 1910, as "Bei der Toilette."
1920
Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Representative Modern Masters, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1920, no. 7.
1926
A Memorial Collection of the Works of Mary Cassatt, Art Institute of Chicago, 1926-1927, no. 4, repro., as Girl Combing Her Hair.
1927
[Memorial Exhibition], Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, 1927, no. 7.
1928
A Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Mary Cassatt, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1928, no. 9.
1931
Degas and his Tradition, Museum of French Art, New York, 1931, no. 7.
1933
A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 438, repro.
1934
A Survey of American Painting, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1934, no. 11, repro.
1946
American Painting, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, no. 39, as The Morning Toilet.
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1970
Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1970, no. 38, repro.
1986
The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986, no. 138, repro. (shown only in Washington).
1998
Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998-1999, no. 48, as Study (Etude) (shown only in Washington).
2010
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1930
"Rush at Auction of Havemeyer Art." The New York Times. 11 April 1930:23
1942
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 42, repro., as The Morning Toilet.
1944
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 42, repro., as The Morning Toilet.
1944
Jewell, Edward Alden. French Impressionists and their Contemporaries Represented in American Collections. New York, 1944: repro. 82.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 156, color repro., as The Morning Toilet.
1953
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 52, repro., as The Morning Toilet.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 328, repro., as The Morning Toilet.
1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 82, repro.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:498, color repro.
1970
Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme. Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings. Washington, 1970: no. 146.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 22, repro.
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art. London, 1979: 117, pl. 103, color repro.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 34, repro.
1981
Williams 1981, 139, 140, color repro. 154.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 564, no. 857, color repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 40, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 365, no. 300, color repro.
2008
Pfieffer, Ingrid and Max Hollein. Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond. Exh. cat. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2008: 26, repro.

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