Woman in Front of
the Mirror, 1981
inspiration for her graphic work is traced back to an exhibition
at the Beaux Arts in Paris in April of 1890 --which featured 725
Ukiyo-e Japanese woodcut prints, albums, and illustrated books
by Japanese artists including Utamaro and
discovery of Japanese art prints by French artists and collectors
alike began in the 1860s. Cassatt
new of Japanese prints long before this major exhibition--she collected
prints, porcelains, and fans from Japan, and was especially attracted
to the work of Utamaro. The
exhibition, however, revealed in sheer quantity and quality the impact
of the Japanese artists in terms of new techniques, different color,
and simplified composition.
print of Cassatt's is one of the few, if not the only work of hers,
which shows an adult woman bare-breasted.
Japanese prints often focused on overtly sexual themes--the
woman in Cassatt's work is not overtly sexual--perhaps this nudity
was as far as Cassatt could go in this domain. Cassatt has simplified
her composition, added the pattern of print, not only on the sofa,
but on the wallpaper.
Letter, focuses on a private moment for a maid. Cassatt's work focuses primarily on women of upper or middle
class--with some exceptions--yet it is interesting that she has
chosen this subject matter for her experimentation with Japanese-style
prints. Perhaps a novel subject matter was called
for with a novel technique.