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Maternal Caress

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (American, 1844–1926)

In the 1890s, Mary Cassatt grew dissatisfied with the Impressionist goal of rendering a purely physical world and embraced a style of painting called Neo-Traditionalism, which married realism with subjects having symbolic or allegorical meaning. Deeply influenced by her study of paintings in the Musée du Louvre and by several trips to Italy, Cassatt admired the layers of meaning in Renaissance art and sought to bring similar content to contemporary painting.

In Maternal Caress, the subjects are framed to emphasize their rounded forms and to limit external distractions. Although this scene recalls medieval and Renaissance compositions of the Madonna and Child, Cassatt has increased the sense of intimacy between her figures by shifting the perspective over the mother’s shoulder. In this fashion, Cassatt stressed the vital role of women in childcare.

Object Details

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