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Mary Cassatt (1844 -1926), The Fitting, 1890-91, drypoint and aquatint in colors on laid paper; 14 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches (375 x 252 mm),
signed in pencil with monogram, watermark PL Bas. Reference: Breeskin 147; Mathews & Shapiro 9 seventh (final) state.
Kennedy Galleries New York, 1963
Catherine Gamble Curran, New York
The ten color aquatints that Cassatt produced for the third exhibition of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs in April 1891 have long been considered among the most significant achievements of her career. Much has been written about the synergy of influences which gave rise to these startlingly innovative images. Cassatt’s close relationship with Degas and Pissarro at a time when all three artists were engaged in making prints provided a fertile environment for experimentation and technical development. Further, the seminal exhibition of Japanese prints which opened in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts in April of 1890 elicited fervent responses from both Degas and Cassatt. The graceful Japanese figures, sumptuous colors and flat patterning resonated with Cassatt and propelled her to create the ten color drypoints which are unparalleled in her graphic oeuvre.
The Fitting is among the more complex images of the set, combining the oblique perspective, the juxtaposition of patterns and the device of a reflection in a mirror to create visual tension. The subtly elegant hues are stunningly original. Cassatt mixed the colors herself and painted them directly onto the plate altering them in each impression. The dress that is being fitted is the same design as seen in Woman Holding a Zinnia (1892), suggesting that Cassatt had clothes made for her models so that they would appear in the latest fashion.
There are color variations even within the impressions of the final state. Here, the pale green of the wallpaper is balanced against the subtle grayish blue of the lines in the dress, a tone that then continues as the “fond” of the floor. The floral pattern intertwined green and rose, with the brown of the dressmaker’s dress creates a dark accent which is balanced by the slightly more reddish brown of the young woman’s hair.