Overview

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair stands as a testament to the newly formed relationship between Mary Cassatt and the impressionists, and to her assimilation of a freer style of painting. With a limited palette and vibrant brushstroke, she created a dynamic interplay of forms that is echoed in this captured moment between rest and play.

Light enters the picture through the French doors in the background and enlivens the texture and pattern of the inanimate objects in the room. The tilted picture plane draws attention to the haphazard arrangement of the four large, blue chairs, and the brownish-gray floor in between them is painted with an energetic brushwork that gives it a life of its own. In contrast, the little girl—flopped on a chair in a moment of boredom or exhaustion—and the small dog are in a state of utter repose.

Cassatt reworked the painting with the help of her friend Edgar Degas and exhibited it along with 10 other paintings in her debut exhibition with the impressionists in 1879.

Inscription

lower left: Mary Cassatt; on stretcher crossbar in pencil: M. Vollard / 6 Rue Lafitte

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Purchased from the artist by (Amboise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris); (Hector Brame, Paris); sold November 1963 to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1983 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1879
Possibly Le 4e Exposition de Peinture [Fourth Impressionist Exhibition], Paris, 1879, no. 47 as Portrait de petite fille.
1912
Exposition d'art moderne a l'Hôtel de la Revue "Les Arts", Paris, 1912, no. 83
1928
Portraits et Figures de Femmes Ingres à Picasso, Galerie La Renaissance, Paris, 1928, no. 27
1966
French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 121, repro
1970
Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970, no. 11, repro.
1986
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist, repro.
1987
American Women Artists 1830-1930, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, and other venues, 1987, no. 41, repro. (Washington only)
1990
Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 54, repro.
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. 11, repro., as Portrait of a Little Girl.
1999
An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
2006
Americans in Paris 1860-1900, The National Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006 - 2007, no. 34.
2009
American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life 1765-1915, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009-2010, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 114.
2011
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 7, repro.

Bibliography

1913
Borgmeyer, Charles Louis. The Master Impressionists. Chicago, 1913: repro. 249.
1966
Kuh, Katherine. "Golden Loans for a Silver Anniversary." Saturday Review (19 March 1966): 46.
1970
Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme. Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings. Washington, 1970: no. 56, repro., as The Blue Room.
1976
Harris, Ann Sutherland and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists 1550-1950. Exh. cat., Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1976: 240, under no. 91.
1979
Munro, Eleanor. Originals: American Women Artists. New York, 1979: 67, repro. 73.
1980
Pollock, Griselda. Mary Cassatt. London, 1980: 66.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 146, no. 50, color repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 38, repro.
1994
Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Mary Cassatt: A Life. New York, 1994: 125, repro.
1996
Mathews, Nancy Mowll, ed. Cassatt: A Retrospective. New York, 1996: pl. 12.
1996
White, Barbara Ehrlich. Impressionists: Side by Side. New York, 1996: 189, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 366-367, no. 302, color repro.
2014
Jones, Kimberly A. "Mary Cassatt's Little Girl in a Blue Armchair: Unraveling an Impressionist Puzzle." Archives of American Art Journal 53, no. 1&2 (Fall 2014): 116-121, color fig.

Technical Summary

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