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Edgar Degas, 19 Jul 1834 - 27 Sep 1917
Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 22 May 1844 - 14 Jun 1926
Oil on canvas
Stretcher: 73.3 x 60 x 3.8cm (28 7/8 x 23 5/8 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 94.6 x 80.3 x 8.9cm (37 1/4 x 31 5/8 x 3 1/2")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Regents' Major Acquisitions Fund, Smithsonian Institution
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Born Allegheny City, Pennsylvania
The American impressionist Mary Cassatt spent her career in Europe, settling in Paris. Stifled by tradition, she regarded her exposure to the work of Edgar Degas in 1874 as a “turning point in my artistic life.” She later wrote that “Degas’s art is for the very few,” recognizing a critical sophistication required to appreciate his innovations. After her rejection by the Paris Salon of 1877, Cassatt welcomed Degas’s invitation to exhibit with the impressionists in 1879. Cassatt and Degas engaged in lively dialogues about the depiction of modern life, and their vibrant artistic exchange is evident in her willingness to model for him on several occasions. They also collected each other’s work. Degas captures the collaborative nature of their friendship in this portrait, where Cassatt is shown in what may be a photography studio holding photographs, possibly reproductions of works of art, seated, as if in the midst of conversation.
Cassatt collection, Paris c. 1884 - 1913; bought by Ambroise Vollard, April 1913, until at least 1917. Wilhelm Hansen, Copenhagen, 1918-1923. Acquired, possibly through (Galerie Barbazanges, Paris), by Kojiro Matsukata, 1923; Matsukata collection, 1923 -1951; bought by (Wildenstein and Co., New York), November 1951; bought by André Meyer, early 1952; (Meyer sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York), 22 October 1980, no. 24; acquired by (Galerie Beyeler, Basel); purchased through (Delbanco Arts, New York) by NPG, 1984.