The Cassatt Committee will include this painting in their revised edition of Adelyn Dohme Breeskin's catalogue raisonné of the works of Mary Cassatt.
Throughout her long career, Mary Cassatt dedicated much of her work to the exploration and depiction of the traditional theme of mother and child. This subject became increasingly prominent in her work, and after 1900 it was the one with which she was most regularly associated. Her devotion to the subject was in part a response to the increasing demands of her clientele, and also a result of one of her main interests, the role of women in modern society. Indeed, when in 1913 Achille Segard published his book, the first ever devoted to the study of Cassatt's work, he titled it Mary Cassatt, Un peintre des enfants et des mère.
By the turn of the century, Cassatt began to receive the fame and recognition she deserved. She was awarded several prizes in America for her work and was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1904. Her work sold successfully at Galerie Durand-Ruel and through Ambroise Vollard in Paris, as well as through other art dealers in both America and Europe.
The present work is a study for Le dos nu, circa 1906 (Breeskin, no. 477). It is representative of Cassatt's mature period in both theme and handling. The simplified background in both the present work and its final version highlight the figures of the mother and child in their surroundings. As is often the case during this period of her oeuvre, the figures have receded further into the composition, allowing us to view them from a three-quarter-length distance, lending them further prominence. Cassatt has rendered the face of the child with a high degree of finish and modeling whereas the remainder of the composition was executed with long, loose and freely applied brush strokes. The preliminary under drawing often found in her earlier works is absent. Instead she drew with a loaded brush directly onto the canvas.