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.
lower left: Mary Cassatt; on stretcher crossbar in pencil: M. Vollard / 6 Rue Lafitte
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.
- Possibly Le 4e Exposition de Peinture [Fourth Impressionist Exhibition], Paris, 1879, no. 47 as Portrait de petite fille.
- Exposition d'art moderne a l'Hôtel de la Revue "Les Arts", Paris, 1912, no. 83
- Portraits et Figures de Femmes Ingres à Picasso, Galerie La Renaissance, Paris, 1928, no. 27
- French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 121, repro
- Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970, no. 11, repro.
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist, repro.
- American Women Artists 1830-1930, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, and other venues, 1987, no. 41, repro. (Washington only)
- Französische Impressionisten und ihre Wegbereiter aus der National Gallery of Art, Washington und dem Cincinnati Art Museum, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1990, no. 54, repro.
- 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.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hokusai and Japonisme, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2017-2018.
- Mary Cassatt: An American Impressionist in Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 2018.
- Borgmeyer, Charles Louis. The Master Impressionists. Chicago, 1913: repro. 249.
- Kuh, Katherine. "Golden Loans for a Silver Anniversary." Saturday Review (19 March 1966): 46.
- Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme. Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970, no. 56.
- Harris, Ann Sutherland and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists 1550-1950. Exh. cat., Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1976: 240, under no. 91.
- Munro, Eleanor. Originals: American Women Artists. New York, 1979: 67, repro. 73.
- Pollock, Griselda. Mary Cassatt. London, 1980: 66.
- 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.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 38, repro.
- Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Mary Cassatt: A Life. New York, 1994: 125, repro.
- Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Cassatt: A Retrospective. New York: H.L. Levin Associates, 1996, pl. 12.
- White, Barbara Ehrlich. Impressionists: Side by Side. New York, 1996: 189, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 366-367, no. 302, color repro.
- 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.
- Barnes, Julian. "Not in a Box." Review of Mary Cassatt, une impressionniste américaine à Paris (Musée Jacquemart-André, 2018). London Review of Books 40, no. 28 (26 April 2018): 9, color repro.