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Topic: Colour Girls

Date: 1878

Museum: National Gallery of Art (Washington, United States)

In Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, Mary Cassatt demonstrates her powers of observation in showing her young subject sprawled in a large, blue armchair. The smartly dressed little girl fidgets; in the next chair is her sleeping dog. The girl's pose has the naturalism of childhood that would later characterize many of Cassatt's paintings of children. Pictorial structure and clarity are the foundation of Cassatt's art. Under Edgar Degas' tutelage, she began to collect and study Japanese prints; their patterns and asymmetric designs greatly influenced her work. Here she placed the girl, the focus of the composition, off-center. The armchairs form a pattern encircling an oddly shaped patch of gray floor in the middle of the picture. As in Japanese art, the forms are tilted up, and the edge of the canvas crops the image. Cassatt's strong colors and energetic brushwork mark her connection with the French impressionists. In style and subject matter, her art is close to that of Degas and Edouard Manet. Degas, in fact, made suggestions about the composition of this painting and reworked parts of its background. In Cassatt's pictures, light does not dissolve form. Instead, objects retain their mass and coherence with light enhancing their physical presence.

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