Mary Cassatt: On a Balcony (1878-1879)

Screenshot_2018-12-26 Discover Art Artists The Art Institute of Chicago
1878/79, Mary Cassatt, American (1844–1926), Oil on canvas, Signed lower left: “Mary Cassatt”, 89.9 × 65.2 cm (35 1/2 × 25 5/8 in.), Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge in memory of her aunt, Delia Spencer Field, Source: (Art Institute of Chicago)

Cassatt Catches Quiet Moments

During Mary Cassatt’s early Impressionist period, she frequently focused on the activities of middle-class women in society—at the theater or taking tea, for example. At first glance, the arresting painting ‘On a Balcony’, which was shown in the 1880 Impressionist exhibition, appears to depict a woman in a public setting.

However, the blue rail of the balcony, visible near the top of the painting, defines the enclosed space of a private garden, while the woman’s morning dress further indicates the intimacy of her location. Cassatt signaled the modernity of her subject through the woman’s choice of reading material; she peruses a newspaper rather than a novel. Even at home Cassatt’s subjects are connected to the contemporary world, not lost in a fictional fantasy. (Art Institute of Chicago)

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