Mary Cassatt And The Children She Painted

Mary Cassatt And The Children She Painted

Before delving into why Mary Cassatt was a great painter, it’s essential to go over who she was and what she painted. Painter Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania on Christmas Day, 1844, to one of the most prominent families in the United States. She began painting during her teenage years but her parents, not wanting their daughter to work as an artist, encouraged her to study at the leading art schools in Europe instead.

The most famous paintings by Mary Cassatt, an American Impressionist painter, are those she painted of children at play. The artist’s love of children and her gift for capturing their innocence and beauty in her paintings have made them some of the most famous paintings in the art world today.

Breakfast in Bed

Breakfast in Bed – Mary Cassatt

Mary painted many domestic scenes, including one of her most famous: Breakfast in Bed. Mary is often remembered for her depictions of motherhood. This painting shows a woman holding a baby while lying down in bed. There is breakfast next to the bed. The mother looks up at her baby with an expression of tenderness! Mary captured both tenderness and a sense of innocence in these works.

This portrait is about motherhood but also maternal instincts. The woman in Mary’s painting looks like she’s thinking about her baby. Her expression shows a sense of wonder at her child’s presence in her life. She is holding it close to her chest as if protecting it from something that might harm it. The baby looks tenderly at its mother with an expression that says, I love you!

The Child’s Bath

The Child’s Bath –  Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt’s famous paintings include this beautiful painting that shows Mary Cassatt’s love of children. The Child’s Bath features a young girl standing in a tiny bathing basin. A woman, likely her mother, is helping her wash up.

Mary Cassatt’s paintings often feature women with their children or other family members. Some art historians believe that Mary Cassatt may have painted The Child’s Bath to honor her sister-in-law’s new baby—or maybe even one of Mary’s daughters! Some people think Mary Cassatt may have used herself as a model for paintings because she looks so similar to many women!

American Painter Mary Cassatt often featured mothers with their children in her paintings as she believed that women, in their way, had a very crucial role to play in a child’s upbringing. Mary Cassatt was an active advocate for women’s rights during her lifetime. One of her most famous paintings depicts a mother lovingly caring for her child, just as Mary did.

Maternal Kiss

Maternal Kiss – Mary Cassatt

One of Mary’s earliest paintings, Maternal Kiss, was made during her study abroad in Paris. In 1874, Mary painted Maternal Kiss while studying with Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his atelier on rue d’Argenteuil. The painting shows a mother kissing her child. Through careful selection of line, hue, and pattern, Cassatt depicts the quiet closeness of mother and child. For example, one line overlaps both the arm of the mother and the arm of the child, clearly emphasizing the depth of their connection.

The setting is intimate with just the mother and daughter; Mary fills most of the canvas with soft golden tones, letting us know that she wants us to focus on these two figures alone. The size of Mary’s brushstrokes also emphasizes their closeness: they are oversized and slightly irregular, but they don’t overwhelm either figure.

Her loose brushwork suggests that she did not have time to think about each stroke as she made it; rather than appearing careless or unfinished, her brushwork adds an impressionistic feel to an otherwise realistic painting.

Summertime II

Summertime – Mary Cassatt

This painting shows a woman with a young child peacefully floating on a lake or pond. It could be the small pond on the woman’s property. Summertime is an exceptional work due to its emphasis on figure and landscape alike. There are vivid blue, red, orange, and green brushstrokes flowing on the water and making the small duck approach the boat.

As the viewer pays attention to the animation of the piece, they feel captured. The figures are likewise moving. As the woman (in the painting) and child lean over the boat’s edge to observe the waterfowl, their closeness hints at their bond, causing the onlooker to react with warmth.

The impressionist movement is founded on observation, and Mary’s depictions of children mirror that idea. In fact, she was once quoted as saying I always paint children precisely as they are. I never idealize them. I paint them in their dresses or naked according to their ages. As Mary observed her friends’ and acquaintances’ children over the years, she embodied their personalities through her painting. If you study Mary Cassatt’s drawings, you will see precisely that.

Louise Nursing Her Child

Louise Nursing Her Child – Mary Cassatt


This painting depicts a young mother, Louise, nursing her child. The child’s identity is unknown, but it is believed to be one of Mary Cassatt’s sisters. The woman looks down at her baby with an expression of love and affection. Her face is framed by dark hair pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. Like many mothers in 19th century France, her dress is simple and plain. Both mother and daughter look healthy and contented as they gaze lovingly at each other.

Mary Cassatt’s artworks or paintings of children were, for her time, very unusual. When children were depicted as naughty or mischievous, Mary Cassatt focused on their innocence and beauty. Her paintings are notable for focusing on eyes—the windows to a person’s soul—and slender bodies and clothes in soft pastels.


Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844-1926) was a leading American painter famous for her realistic paintings of mothers with their children. You can learn about Mary Cassatt’s famous paintings as you study Mary Cassatt’s drawings or by learning about Mary Cassatt’s life. For example, did you know that she was one of only two women who were ever admitted to study at Paris’ prestigious École des Beaux-Arts? Now you know.

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