Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot were artist-colleagues.  Occasionally, rivalry would ensue between them.  In this section we compare Cassatt and Morisot.

Mary Cassatt
Girl Arranging her Hair, 1886

For Impressionists, there was a brief fad of painting women combing their hair. 

These two girls, are both braiding their long hair and both have a dreamlike gaze facing away from the viewer.  In Girl Arranging her Hair, by Cassatt, the painter chose to emulate Degas and depicted a maid at her toilette. In fact, it was this painting that was found in Degas' studio, and thought to be his--but was later identified as Cassatt's. The composition is rigorous, with the movement of one arm echoed by the other. Although the pose of the girl is casual the arrangement in the background--the chair, the sink, and the mirror frame step up in unison to the movement of the girls' arms.

Berthe Morisot
Girl with Red Hair 1893

Morisot's Girl with Red Hair appears to be getting ready for an outing.  The absence of objects in the background make this picture look flatter and therefore has more of the quality of a straight portrait than Cassatt's. 

Few Salon artists would have deemed a girl combing her hair as a serious theme for a painting, unless she was a goddess or a nymph.  These paintings are instances of these girls' daily life, rather than a symbol or allegory of women.

Mary Cassatt
The Boating Party 1893-4

These two pictures show similar themes covered by Cassatt and Morisot: an outing on a lake.

Both show women with their children, and the two mothers have almost identical clothing.  Neither boating experience is set in reference to myth, they represent, an instant of reality--an attitude to painting that the Impressionists valued. 

Although Cassatt and Morisot were acquaintances, they competed in their artwork.  Cassatt's picture, The Boating Party, perhaps influenced by Manet (with its areas of large distinct painted forms) focuses on compositional structure and a quality of permanence.  Morisot's In a Boat, on the other hand, focuses on the quality of the transient effects of light dappling on the women and the water.

Berthe Morisot 
In a Boat , 19thC