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In her frequent depictions of children, Mary Cassatt invested relatively quiet and unexceptional moments with considerable dynamism in handling and composition.

Child in a Straw Hat is one of many paintings Cassatt made of little girls appearing to play dress-up. But where Cassatt often portrayed girls taking pleasure in the act of role-playing, here the child’s expression suggests that she is not enjoying herself. Isolated and required to stand still, her demeanor conveys a mixture of pensiveness, frustration, and boredom. While the subject matter captures a languid moment, the paint is handled energetically. Broad, visible brushstrokes are used throughout the composition, forming abstract patterns in some areas, such as the white sleeves of the blouse and smock. The paint was applied quickly and directly to the canvas, in a manner referred to as alla prima, which lends an appearance of spontaneity to the work.


lower right: Mary Cassatt


(Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris); by descent to Chrétien de Gallea, Paris.[1] (Edward Speelman, AG, Zurich); sold January 1965 to Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1983 to NGA.

Exhibition History

French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 118, repro
Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970, no. 36, repro.
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist
Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998-1999, no. 49, repro., as Little Girl in a Big Straw Hat and Pinafore.
Woman Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Fine Arts Museusm of San Francisco, 2008, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
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. 5, repro.


Kuh, Katherine. "Golden Loans for a Silver Anniversary." Saturday Review (19 March 1966): repro. p. 47.
Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme. Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970, no. 143.
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 105, pl. 68.
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 146, repro.
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 40, repro.

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