“The Sewing Mother” by Mary Cassatt.. innocence and simplicity |  Gulf newspaper

“The Sewing Mother” by Mary Cassatt.. innocence and simplicity | Gulf newspaper

Sharjah – Othman Hassan
“Mary Cassatt” (1844 – 1926) is an American artist who specialized in drawing portraits of women who take care of children. She spent most of her life in France in the nineteenth century. As a woman, it was difficult for her to portray subjects available to male artists such as cafes, clubs and open spaces, so her work was limited to subjects In the home, it became easy for her to tackle themes of motherhood, children, and family members, and even in feminist subjects she sought to avoid the narrative and emotional aspects, and she overcame these limitations by giving her drawings solid structure and careful attention to color.

In 1872, Marie Cassatt developed a close friendship with the young Louisine Elder, an art collector and an amateur Impressionist, and wife of Henry Havemeyer, the “sugar baron” of the American Golden Age. For the creation of a group of Impressionist paintings, many of which were donated to American museums, and contributed greatly to shaping public taste, for what has since become the most popular of all styles of painting.

Her portrait of Mary Cassatt focused on depicting mothers and children in comfortable, non-formal poses, and was the first American artist to participate in exhibitions of the French Impressionists in Paris. She first traveled to Europe with her family when she was eleven years old, and at the age of 16 she decided to become a professional artist. Her family did not agree with this decision, but they eventually relented, and allowed her to enroll in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She disliked formal training at the Academy, and returned to France, finally settling there in 1870, but considered herself an American and was proud of her Philadelphia roots.

She was a close friend of the French painter Edgar Degas (1834-1917), who invited her to exhibit with the Impressionists in 1877. She accepted this opportunity with great joy, which also linked her to a friendship with the French artist Nerthe Moreso (1841-1895) and after a few years, she stopped painting, Preoccupied with caring for her sick mother and sister in Paris, in 1885 she returned to painting, but not within the framework of the Impressionists. She did not favor belonging to a particular artistic current; Rather, she tried several methods of drawing, and many of her paintings in that period dealt with the topic of family relations, especially the relationship of a mother with her daughter.

Among her notable paintings in this field is one entitled “The Sewing and Her Daughter”.


The painting “The Sewing and Her Daughter” depicts a young girl leaning on her mother’s knees, who appears to be practicing the craft of knitting, while the child stares at the scenes directly and spontaneously. She painted the mother and daughter cups sitting next to the window directly in front of them.

The mother wears a loose dress with a green apron covering it, which is reflected in the grass visible from the window. The work on display in Paris indicates that Marie used two different models of composition for both the mother and her daughter, and the piece is done in the technique of canvas and oil.

A window is open and illuminates the space. The painting appears realistic even with minimal visible shading of the artwork. Mary Cassatt makes use of softer colors with the motifs visible from the dresses as well as from the wood. In the background, a group of orange flowers in a vase is visible holding the water clearly behind the woman on the same surface as the vase. With all this, the mother seems to be keen on everything she sews to allow the little girl to enjoy her presence.

in criticism

The grass yard in the background is clean, with few trees extending over the visible courtyard. The girl finds comfort in the arms of her mother, and does not seem to occupy the mother, who in turn seems to be busy knitting. The two of them seem very happy in these moments of serious and sober feeling.

This particular painting was purchased in 1901 by Luisen Havemeyer for its sincerity of artistic expression.


In 1890, Cassatt reached the height of her success. In 1891, she exhibited several paintings in France. She became a role model for American artists, especially amateurs and beginners. In 1904, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her artistic activity. I decided in 1910 to visit Egypt; It was influenced by ancient Egyptian art. After the death of her brother, she stopped drawing again until 1912. In 1911 she was diagnosed with diabetes and rheumatism, and in 1914 her vision worsened so much that she stopped drawing.


Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania, to educated parents, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and finished 5 continuous years there. She decided to explore the art world in Paris, and there, because of the war between France and Prussia, she was forced to return to her hometown; Her family refused to accept her artistic career or finance it. However, in 1871 the Archbishop of Pittsburgh offered her the opportunity to copy works of art in Italy, so she returned to Europe on a new tour during which she accomplished her artistic mission. In Paris, like Cammy Pissarro, and when her work was shown in the official exhibition in Paris, art critics praised her experience, who described her works as “transparent and simple”.


The nineties of the nineteenth century was a golden period for Mary Cassatt, during which she completed many paintings dealing with the worlds of women and childhood, for example, her famous painting “The Sewing Mother and Her Daughter”; In 1891, the painting was exhibited with many of her similar paintings in the largest French exhibitions, and she also became a role model, especially for young American artists, and by 1904 she was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her artistic activity.

In 1910 she visited Egypt and was influenced by ancient Egyptian art, and after the death of her brother, she stopped drawing again until 1912. In 1911 she was diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatism, and several neurological problems, but she did not stop drawing, and in 1914 she was forced to stop completely. She started painting after she was nearly blind, after which she became involved in demands supporting women’s rights, and presented a number of her paintings to support this trend in 1915.

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