The Child's Caress, Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926) The Child's Caress, c. 1891 Oil on canvas Gift in memory of Wilhelmina Tenney by a group of her friends, 1953 (1845.1) Mary Cassatt was the only American—and just one of two women—who worked and exhibited with the French Impressionists. She is best known for paintings, pastels, and prints that capture intimate moments between women and children in settings that range from domestic interiors to secluded gardens. While these compositions evoke images of the Madonna and Child, Cassatt has modernized this subject and removed its Christian iconography to focus instead on the secular relationship between a woman and a child. The people in Cassatt’s later works were usually not related; rather, they were artist’s models hired to sit for the painter and play the role of a loving pair. As a result, paintings like this one are not informal portraits of a family but visual studies of human interactions.