Release Date: September 9, 2014
Mary Cassatt's Original Pastel Boxes Acquired by the National Gallery of Art on View from September 11 through October 5
Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired three original pastel boxes that were owned by Mary Cassatt. They will go on public view for a limited time only in conjunction with Degas/Cassatt, the immensely popular exhibition that has drawn more than 300,000 visitors to date.
Both the exhibition and display of pastels will end on October 5, an occasion marked with the public symposium Degas and Cassatt: Different Perspectives from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the West Building Lecture Hall.
Mary Cassatt most likely began working in pastel around 1878. She exhibited three pastels in her debut at the 1879 impressionist exhibition, including At the Theater (1878/1879), which is currently on display in the exhibition. Her interest in the medium reflects her enthusiasm for exploring alternative to oil paints and by the 1890s, pastel eclipsed oil as her preferred medium.
Presumably in 1920, Cassatt gave these boxes of pastels to ten-year-old Electra Webb Bostwick, the granddaughter of Louisine Havemeyer, an art collector and dear friend of the artist. Years later, Bostwick recalled, "Not realizing the value of the pastels I wasted lots of them on playing and swapping them with my friends."
Donated to the Shelburne Craft School in Vermont in the early 1940s, these boxes were brought to the attention of the Gallery by conservators at the Shelburne Museum. As a result, the pastel boxes have recently been acquired by the Gallery's Art Materials Collection and Study Center, a permanent home for artists' materials, technical information, and trade literature. Having Mary Cassatt's actual art supplies will enable Gallery conservators and art historians to further their analysis and understanding of the artist's process, and of the materials themselves.
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