Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Master Alexander J. Cassatt, Jr.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
Master Alexander J. Cassatt, Jr.
signed and inscribed 'A. F. C. jr. from/Mary Cassatt' (lower right)
pastel on paperboard
26½ x 22 in. (67.3 x 55.9 cm.)
Executed in 1914.
Robert K. Cassatt, father of the sitter.
Alexander J. Cassatt, the sitter, Cecilton, Maryland.
By descent.
Adelson Galleries, New York, 2007.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2008.
M. Knoedler & Co., The Paintings of Mary Cassatt, exhibition catalogue, New York, n.p., 1966, no. 42, illustrated.
A.D. Breeskin, Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors and Drawings, Washington, D.C., 1970, p. 205, no. 568, illustrated.
(Possibly) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 115th Annual Exhibition, February 8-March 28, 1920.
(Possibly) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Representative Modern Artists, April 17-May 9, 1920, no. 41 or 42 (as Portrait of a Child).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., The Paintings of Mary Cassatt, February 1-26, 1966.
Charleston, South Carolina, Gibbes Art Gallery, 20th Century Art From Charleston Collections, February 2-24, 1974.

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Lot Essay

In 1901 Louisine and Harry Havemeyer, wealthy American collectors and close friends of Mary Cassatt, invited the artist to travel with them to Italy and Spain, in pursuit of important paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This trip resulted in Cassatt's renewed exposure to the Old Master painters and spurred stylistic changes in her work, which would be evident for the remainder of her career. As a result of this stylistic transformation, the first quarter of the twentieth century is considered by many to be the artist's most successful period.

Executed in 1914, Master Alexander J. Cassatt, Jr. is a superb example of Mary Cassatt's mature pastels of children and a tender portrayal of her young nephew. Nowhere is Cassatt's gift for drawing more evident than in her beautiful pastels, intimate compositions that manifest her mastery of the medium as well as of color and composition. Pastel provides the present work a sense of modernity and immediacy not present in the artist's more studied oil paintings as the rich, gestural strokes of white, red and gray give the sense of capturing a fleeting moment of stillness in the active life of her young nephew, Alexander.

Cassatt received much acclaim for her pictures of single children, returning to the subject throughout her career and exploring it in various mediums. The present work was produced during her final, and most serious, exploration of the theme of the single child. "In the course of revising her approach to the mother and child theme Cassatt embarked on a series of pastels, drawings, and drypoints of children that preoccupied her for the rest of her working career. She had painted children many times before, but there had always been an obvious incentive, either a portrait commission or contact with her young nieces and nephews. This series seems to have had no such motivation." (N.M. Mathews, Mary Cassatt, New York, 1987, p. 125) The present work is particularly poignant as here Cassatt applies her more personal approach to the depiction of her nephew with whom she had a pre-existing personal bond.

The stylistic maturity of Cassatt's later works, of which Master Alexander J. Cassatt, Jr. is a superlative example, met with great acclaim from critics, dealers, collectors and students on both sides of the Atlantic. The artist's broad international appeal during this period was a testament to the fact that, "Although she worked throughout her entire career in France, her art is indeed expressive of the vitality which characterized the sturdy American temperament of her own epoch. She fused these thoroughly native qualities with a deep appreciation and thorough knowledge of the painting tradition of France, significantly enriching her life and art." (A.D. Breeskin in The Knoedler Galleries, The Paintings of Mary Cassatt, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1966, n.p.)

This pastel will be included in the Cassatt Committee's revision of Adelyn Dohme Breeskin's catalogue raisonné of the work of Mary Cassatt.

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