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The Letter

1890-1891
Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American, 1844 - 1926
The Letter belongs to a set of ten color prints by Mary Cassatt depicting ordinary moments in the life of modern, upper-class women. Cassatt worked on this groundbreaking series from 1890 to 1891, inspired by a large exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints that she had seen while living in Paris. Cassatt’s familiar subject matter can sometimes eclipse the innovative achievements of her printmaking. In The Letter, the expert layering of delicate drypoint lines—especially the wispy hair and eyelashes—with the watercolor-like aquatint of blue and pink is a remarkable technical feat. Cassatt collaborated on the set with a young printer, M. Leroy, whom she credited in the handwritten inscription below the image. This acknowledgment was perhaps a nod to the labor of the project, or to the Japanese tradition of including both artist’s and printer’s signatures on a work....

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