Lady at the Tea Table is an 1883-1885 painting in the Impressionist style by the leading American painter and printmaker Mary Cassatt. It has a monumental quality as the quiet but broad figure of Mary Dickinson Riddle, the artist’s mother’s cousin, sits in front of us while looking out to her left.
Analysis of Cassatt’s Lady at the Tea Table
The painting, created between 1883 and 1885, was intended as a return gift after the sitter made a present of the Qing porcelain tea set depicted to the Cassatt’s. The simple, starkly drawn shapes of the composition are reminiscent of Oriental art, which had an influence on Cassatt, which makes for an accord between form and the content, i.e. the tea set.
Mary Cassatt’s domestic paintings
Mary Cassatt was an American painter who lived from 1844 to 1926 and is known for her impressionist-style paintings, which often featured domestic scenes of women and children. Cassatt’s use of these domestic scenes was groundbreaking in the art world because she depicted women and children not as passive objects, but as active participants in their own lives.
Cassatt’s paintings of domestic scenes challenged the traditional gender roles of her time by showing women engaged in activities such as reading, sewing, or playing with children. By depicting women and children in intimate and everyday settings, Cassatt created a new type of subject matter that had previously been overlooked in art.
Through her paintings, Cassatt also highlighted the emotional complexity of domestic life. She captured moments of tenderness, intimacy, and vulnerability that were often absent from traditional portrayals of domestic scenes. Cassatt’s use of light and color also added a sense of vibrancy and energy to her scenes, further emphasizing the importance of the domestic sphere in daily life.
Riddle’s daughter disliked the portrayal of her mother so Cassatt donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1923 where it remains on display today.