Friday, June 27, 2014

Mary Cassatt's (1844-1926) painting that wasn't quite right

Mary Cassatt (American artist, 1844-1926) Lady at the Tea Table 1883-85

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where this painting is on view, tells us that the sitter is Mrs. Robert Moore Riddle, 1819-1890, the former Mary Johnston Dickinson, a 1st cousin of Mary Cassatt's mother. Cassatt began this portrait in 1883, finishing it 2 years later. The sitter's daughter, Anna Dike Riddle (Mrs Thomas Alexander Scott) 1839-1901, objected to the size of her mother's nose in the picture. The artist put the painting away until 1914, nearly 13 years after the protesting daughter had died.

In 1914, when Cassatt showed the painting to collector, philanthropist, & civil rights activist Louisine Waldron Elder (Mrs Henry O. Havemeyer) 1855-1929, she was encouraged to exhibit it. Longtime friends Cassatt & Louisine Havemeyer had met in Paris in 1874.

The painting was exhibited later in 1914, at Durand-Ruel Galleries in Paris, where it created a sensation. In 1915, the painting was included in an exhibition of works by the French Impressionists held at Knoedler & Co. in New York.

Mary Cassatt gave the painting the the Met in 1923, just 3 years before her death. When Louisine Havemeyer died in 1929, over 2,000 art works from her collection came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the largest collection, the museum has received ever.

Mary Cassatt's painting of Louisine Havemeyer