Denise Holding Her Child: A Look Inside 40 at 40

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (American, 1844-1926). Denise Holding Her Child, ca. 1905. Drypoint on paper. Miami University Art Museum Purchase. 2014.52.

Continuing with the theme of women in honor of International Women’s Day tomorrow, Friday, March 8, this post highlights the incredible feats taken by American artist, Mary Stevenson Cassatt (American, 1844-1926). Cassatt’s groundbreaking involvement in the art world revolutionized how female artists were treated and viewed, then and now. After her formal arts education and training in both America and Europe, Cassatt’s work was accepted into the Paris Salon, an elite group consisting of only successful male artists. At the time, this feat was incredible, as no other woman had ever been invited to join. Not only was Cassatt invited to the Paris Salon, but she was also formally invited by Edgar Degas himself to join the elite group of artists called the Impressionists.

Her paintings feature visible brushstrokes and soft, yet vibrant colors. In each work she produced, Cassatt deliberately manipulated each brushstroke to create visible light, creating lasting effects of energy and realism on the viewer. Cassatt also embraced themes of femininity and maternity throughout her works, often times depicting mothers with their children. Interestingly enough, Cassatt never had children of her own.

In this work, Denise is a model Cassatt commonly hired as a model. In this sketch, Cassatt creates an incredible rendering of Denise holding a child closely up on her chest and side. Both subjects are looking off into the distance as the child wraps her arms around Denise’s neck. Denise Holding Her Child is on display in Gallery 3 in 40 at 40: Celebrating 40 Years, open until June 8.