Brought together in 1877 by their mutual disdain for the Salon, Degas and Cassatt were in close collaboration throughout the late 1870s and into the early 1880s. The success of the spring 1877 Impressionist show inspired Degas to organize his colleagues to contribute to a new journal of uniquely Impressionist etchings to be titled Le jour et la nuit (unfortunately never published).1
In 1879, Cassatt was busy at work in preparation for the first issue, mastering her hand at etching. In this early sketch plate, Cassatt experiments with achieving effects of light and shadow with soft-ground, a technique favored by the Impressionists for its tonality, immediacy and close relationship to drawing.
1. For a complete discussion, see Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers, 'Degas and the Printed Image: 1856-1914' in Sue Welsh Reed and Barbara Stern Schapiro, Edgar Degas: The Painter as Printmaker, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984, pp. xxxix-li.