Mary Cassatt: The Tea (1880)

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Tea by Mary Cassatt, 1880, oil on canvas, 25½ × 36¼ in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Cassatt’s paintings often document the social interactions of well-to-do women like herself. The activities they depict—tea drinking, going to the theatre, tending children—fall within the normal routine for Cassatt’s sex and class. Yet the painter’s insistence upon representing such episodes from the modern world (even a sheltered segment of it), her dislike for narrative, and her devotion to surface arrangement and color, all evident in The Tea, mark Cassatt’s dedication to the most advanced artistic principles of her day.”

Quote from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Read More
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Tea by Mary Cassatt, 1880, oil on canvas, 25½ × 36¼ in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (detail)

“The two women play the traditional roles of hostess and guest, although it appears that their conversation has lapsed: the hostess (on the left, in a simple brown day dress) rests her hand on her chin while her guest (wearing the hat, scarf, and gloves that indicate she has stepped in from outside) sips her tea.

Quote from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Read More
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Tea by Mary Cassatt, 1880, oil on canvas, 25½ × 36¼ in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (detail)

Despite these conservative and tasteful surroundings, Cassatt’s painting is a declaration of modernity that demonstrates her rejection of several traditional artistic conventions. First, Cassatt denies the human form its usual compositional primacy: the tea service seems larger in scale than the women themselves. This pictorial conceit of giving inanimate objects equal priority with figures was sometimes employed by Cassatt’s friend Degas. Cassatt further defies custom by obscuring the face of her subject, rendering the guest in the transitory act of drinking… Cassatt reiterates her modernist creed that her painting is not only about representing likeness, but also about design and color…

Quote from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,” Read More

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Sources

“The Tea” by Mary Cassatt, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-tea-32829, (accessed August 21, 2018),

Wikipedia contributors, “Mary Cassatt,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mary_Cassatt&oldid=857243023 (accessed September 1, 2018).

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~Sunnyside

9 Comments Add yours

  1. JMN says:

    The appurtenances and fixtures that surround her figures are fascinating. I love the wallpaper, for example. All the details. Amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, those details make me feel like I could step into the room and hold a warm cup of tea, too. What a great word -‘appurtenances’. (Only my children understand how much joy new words bring me.) ;-). Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. JMN says:

        I understand. I experienced a shiver of pleasure at encountering “recrudescence” used by Ross Douthat in the NYTimes this morning! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the detail of the guest’s little finger sticking out as she sips her tea 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha….I am impressed that anyone could drink tea with those gloves on X 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. the other woman seems getting lost…. perhaps she is more into coffee…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Makes me wonder if the visit is not altogether welcome…perhaps a perfunctory duty performed without enthusiasm on either side (?). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Northern Elm. 🙂

      Like

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